Self-Representation in Upper Paleolithic Female Figurines

Self-Representation in Upper Paleolithic Female Figurines
Author(s): LeRoy McDermott
Source: Current Anthropology, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), pp. 227-275
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
Research.All rightsreserved
I996 byThe Wenner-Gren
The world's oldest survivingworks of artfashioned
afterthe human image appear in the archaeological
strataof the Upper Paleolithic in Europe,shortlyafter
Homo sapiens sapiens emergedonto the centerstage
of bioculturalevolution. Questions about theirmeaning and significancebegan with Piette's (i895) and
Reinach's (i898) earlydescriptionsof findsfromthe
rock sheltersand caves of southernFranceand northern Italy. Since these pioneeringefforts,
severalhundredadditionalimages have been identifiedfromthe
EuropeanUpper Paleolithic,most notablyfrommodern France,Italy,Germany,Austria,the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the Commonwealthof Independent
States. The rich possibilitiesraised by a centuryof
comparativeand interpretivestudyhave yet to generate a consensus about why our ancestorsfirstbegan to
This studyexploresthelogicalpossibilitythatthefirstimages
createrepresentationalimages of the human body or
thepointofview ofself
functionstheyinitiallyserved(Conkey I983).
ratherthanotherand concludesthatUpperPaleolithic"Venus"
This studychallenges the assumptionthat images of
women'sviewsoftheirown bodfigurines
simulationsofwhata modernfemale
ies. Usingphotographic
the human figurewere firstcreated fromthe point of
it demonstrates
sees ofherself,
view of otherhuman beingsand arguesinsteadthatthe
and proportional
foundin Pavlovian,Kostenkian,
art of representingthe human body originatedwith vioccurnaturallyin autogenous,or
sual informationderived primarilyfromthe physical
Thus the size, shape,and articulaself-generated,
tionofbodypartsin earlyfigurines
appearto be determined
point of view of "self." Afterrestudyingthe originals
to theeyesand therelativeeffects
offoreshort- fromthis neglectedpoint of view,2I conclude that the
ening,distance,and occlusionratherthanby symbolicdistoroldest images of the human body literallyembodyegotion.Previoustheoriesoffunctionare summarizedto providean
visual information
claimsofstylistichetero- centricor autogenous(self-generated)
context,and contemporary
obtained froma self-viewingperspective(McDermott
male representations
are examinedand
geneityand frequent
by a restudyoftheoriginals.As selfI 98 5). Furthermore,
since all the earliest,best-preserved,
ofwomenat different
stagesoflife,theseearlyfigurines and most refinedpieces appear to be analog representaembodiedobstetricaland gynecological
and probably
tions3ofwomen lookingdown on theirchangingbiologan advancein women'sself-conscious
ical selves, I conclude that the firsttraditionof human
image makingprobablyemergedas an adaptiveresponse
to the unique physical concerns of women and that,
is AssociateProfessor
ofArtat Central
Mo. 64093,U.S.A.).
whateverelse these representationsmay have symbolBornin I943, he was educatedat OklahomaStateUniversity
ized to the societywhich createdthem,theirexistence
ofKansas(M.A.,I973; Ph.D.,
(B.A.,I965) and at theUniversity
signifiedan advance in women's self-consciouscontrol
lie in thepsychology
ofvisualperI985). His researchinterests
ceptionand arthistory.He has published"The Structure
ofArtis- over the materialconditionsof theirreproductivelives.
artor mirrors,therewere only
tic Evolution:An Interdisciplinary
in Problemsof
Method: Conditions of a History of Art (Proceedings of the 24th
two sources of visual informationabout human appear-
in Upper Paleolithic
Female Figurines1
by LeRoy McDermott
InternationalCongressoftheHistoryofArt,Bologna,Italy,Septemberio-i8, I979) (Milan: L'ElectaEditrice,i982), and (with
C. H. McCoid),"TowardsDecolonizingGender:FemaleVision
Museum.I thankElizabethBanks,JillCook,
in the EuropeanUpperPaleolithic"(AmericanAnthropologist,
in CatherineHodgeMcCoid,BradleyLenz,AntaMontet-White,
press).The presentpaperwas accepted27 iv 95, and thefinalver- Olga Soffer
fortheircriticaland conceptualcontributions
to this
sion reachedtheEditor'sofficeii viii 95.
project.CathyClark,Suzanne Olmstead,and Lisa Schmidthave
in supportoftheproject.I also
acknowledgethe cooperationof the expectantmothers
who madeit possibleforme to explorethishypothesis.
eitherin theoriginaloras casts(orboth),
i. The thesisof thispaperwas firstpresentedat the 6thAnnual 2. This studyreexamined,
MeetingoftheMidwestArtHistorySociety,heldat theUniversity mostWesternand CentralEuropeanimagesdatedto thePavlovian
of Kansas,April 5-7, I979, and subsequentlyto the i2th Inter- and Gravettian.Studyof Kostenkianpieces was limitedto four
and EthnologicalSciences castsfromGagarino,twofromAvdeevo,and threefromKostenki,
nationalCongressof Anthropological
(ICAES),meetingat Zagreb,Yugoslavia,July24-3I, I988. The re- courtesyoftheMoravianMuseumin Brno,Czech Republic.
searchhas been assistedbygrantsfromEasternMontanaCollege 3. An "analog"imageis notto be confusedwiththeuse of"analogiand the followinginstitu- cal" methodologiesin archaeologicalinterpretation.
and CentralMissouriStateUniversity,
tionshave made castsand/ororiginalsavailable:Mus6e des Anti- quiresonlythattherebe sufficient
a modernphotograph
Mus6e de l'Homme, In contrast,
orotheranalogimageis a physiquit6sNationalesat SaintGermain-en-Laye;
Luigi Pigoriniin Rome; cal transform
or recordofthe energy(orlight)whichit captures.
Paris; Museo Preistoricoed Etnografico
Samm- Thus,in theory,
a continuousphysicalvariablelinksanyrealistic
Landesmuseum,Mainz; Prahistorische
lungen,Ulm; Sammlungendes InstitutsfurVor-und Fruhge- imageandtheoriginalvisualinformation
Staatssamm- ifin practicethatlink can rarelybe reconstructed.
schichteder UniversitatTuibingen;Prahistorische
IfthefirstimMuseum at Vienna; Mo- ages ofthehumanbodywerecreatedfromself-generated
lung in Munich; Naturhistorisches
informaravsk6Muizeumin Brno,Czech Republic,and the Universityof tion,theynecessarilyhave the structure
we observe.
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Volume37, Number2, AprilI996
ance-either one's own body or that of anotherhuman The FirstHuman Images
being.4At the beginningof arthistorytherewould have
been no a priorireason to choose one source over the The earliest prehistoricrepresentations,the so-called
other.Admittedly,thereis the practiceof more recent Venus figurines,constitutea recognizablestylisticclass
millennia to influenceour thinking,but what otherba- and are among the most widelyknownofall Paleolithic
sis do we have for assuming that at the beginningof objects (figs.i and 2). As a grouptheyhave frequently
image making a prehistoricartist would "naturally" been describedin the professionaland popularliterature
have chosen to representanotherhuman being rather (Abramova i967a, b; Bahn and Vertut I988; Burkitt
than self?To determinewhat choice of visual informa- I934; ConkeyI987; DelporteI993a, b; Dobres igg2a,
tionactuallyprevailedat thebeginningofrepresentation b; Duhard I993b; Gamble i982; Giedion i962; Gomezin the Upper Paleolithic,the attributesof the surviving Tabanera I978; Gvozdover Ig8gb; Graziosi I960; Hadimages should be experimentallyexamined for the ingham I979; Hancar I939-40;
Jelinek I975, I988;
structural regularities predicted if the artist's body Leroi-GourhanI968a, b, i982; Luquet I934; Marshack
servedas the originalmodel. There is no reason to sus- I99Ia, b; McDermott I985; Pales and de St.-Pereuse
pect that informationfromdirectvisual self-inspection I976; PassemardI938; Pfeiffer
i982; PraslovI985, I986;
has changed since the Upper Paleolithic,and thus the Putnam I988; Saccasyn-Della Santa I947; Ucko and Roimage projectedonto the retinaofa woman livingtoday senfeldI967; White i986). Scholarsand the public alike
constitutesthe visual analog of that perceivedby her have been struck by the generallyrealistic quality of
long-dead ancestors. What modern females see when many of these early female figurines (Abramova
lookingdown upon themselvescan be photographically I967b:67; Duhard I993b; Luquet I934:439;
simulated and compared with the original artifacts I895:I30;
Praslov i985:i82;
Saccasyn-Della Santa
viewed froma similarperspective.When the distinctive I947). Almost everyonesees nude women either opuformand content of this self-generated
obese (Regnaulti9i2).
informationis lentlyendowedor embarrassingly
thus comparedwith the attributesofthe earliesthuman Upon analysis, however,the actual formsof the figufiguressimilarlyseen, a stronglynaturalisticand lifelike rines are revealed to be so much at variance with anacorrespondenceis in factroutinelyencountered.In the tomical exactitude that many researchershave seen
ofthe human body,the "disembod- them as reflectingarbitraryconvention and abstract
ied" view of objective anatomical proportionswhich schematizationratherthan observationalreality(Congovernsmodernscientificthinkingappearsto have been keyi983:2I5; Dobresigg2b:255; Leroi-Gourhan
less imprtantthan the optically"correct"relationships 207). In fact,it is the specificway in which realityis
of a more immediatesubjectiveperspective.5
integratedwith presumablyconceptualdeparturesfrom
anatomical objectivitythat best defines this style of
4. The oldestmirrors
appearin the Neolithic(MellaartI967:208)
These mostly palm-sized statuettesappear to depict
in the formof polishedobsidiandiscs foundat ?atal Huyuk(ca.
obese women with faceless and usually down8,500-7,700
UpperPaleolithic,butthehorizontalsurfaceofa naturalpool dis- turnedheads, thin arms which commonlyend or disaptortstheproportions
in a mannercom- pear under the breasts (but occasionally cross over
pletelyat variancewiththoseencountered
in thefirsttradition
of them),an abnormallythinuppertorsocarrying
volumiimage making.
or elependulous
5. Although
relieson visualevidenceforitsdemoninformation
would certainly vated buttocks often splayed laterallybut sometimes
stration,tactileand somato-sensory
to any act of self-representation.
have contributed
Althoughit is distendedrearward,a prominent,presumablypregnant
such a role experimentally, or adipose abdomen with a large elliptical navel, and
virtuallyimpossibleto demonstrate
tactileknowledgecould easily have operatedto fashionfeatures what oftenappear to be oddly bent, unnaturallyshort
whichcouldnotbe seenfroma self-viewing
Representationsof hair,forexample,are oftenencountered
amongthese taperinglegs which terminatein eithera roundedpoint
small feet.Althoughreadilyrecogimages,andwhilethelongtressesseenin vertically
lines or disproportionately
at Lespuguecan descendintothevisualfield,close-fitting
coiffures nizable, these anatomical details do not add up to an
or quadrillagepatternwom bytheGri- accurate image of the human figure.
such as the checkerboard
lady,"and a smallrelief
I contendthatit is the fixedangle ofself-regard
also have been the case withthetightcircularringletsapparently
east,as seenat Willendorf,
Pavlov,Kostenki,Gaga- independentlyone fromanother"observedby Saccasynrino,and Avdeevo(DelporteI993a:figs.7, I9, 44, 95, i28, I55C,
Della Santa (I947:96) and Leroi-Gourhan'sconclusion
thetactileknowledgewomencan be ex- that the figuresappear "centeredon the torso,breasts,
I68, I74, i83). Similarly,
pectedto have of theirhair may also have been the sourcefor
of the vulva,whichis likewisenormallyoutside thighs and abdomen," with the rest "attentuated" or
the self-viewing
visual field.The absenceofthe vulvain mostof "dwindlingaway" above and below (i968a:2o7). The latconsistentwiththe physicallimitsof ter researcherchristenedthe collective result of these
theseimagesis strikingly
whereasthefactthatmostfemalefigurines distinctivedistortions,anatomical omissions, and genvisual self-inspection,
with a vulva come fromthe singlesite of Grimaldiis logically eral
disproportionof parts the "lozenge composition"
in thewayinwhichautogenous
in touch,was employedin (i968a:go; i968b). The structuralnatureofthese distorinformation,
tionshas oftenbeen overlookedbyscholarswho see genfashioning
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MC DERMOTT Self-Representation
in Female Figurines1229
in Pavlovian-Kostenkian-Gravettian
FIG. i. Anatomicaldistortions
called the'lozengecomposition":an
abdominalcirclewitha diameterdefinedbythegreatestwidthoftheimage(a, b),theincorrect
seenin theupperand lowerbody(c,d),theunnaturalelevationoftheverticalmidpointand greatestwidthof
thefemalebody(a-h), and therepresentation
ofwhatshouldbe halfofthebody(pubestoground)as being
thetotallength(e,f,g). a, Lespugue;b, Grimaldi"lozenge";c, Kostenkino. 3; d, Gagarino
closerto one-third
no. I; f,Laussel "womanwiththehorn";g,Dolnl Vestonice
no. I; e, Willendorf
no. I; h, Gagarinono. 3.
der or variations of feminine morphologyand repro- below the level ofthe hip joint or crotchand halfabove.
ductive histories in the style of these works (Dobres For the average woman, this vertical midpoint of the
i992b:252; DuhardI99I, I993a, b; Nelson I993; Pales bodyalso coincideswithits greatesthorizontalorlateral
I987). In fact, width. In the typical "lozenge composition,"however,
1976; Rice I98I; Soffer
andde St.-Pereuse
the consistentdeparturesfromnatureseen in theseearly while the vertical midpoint and greatest horizontal
imagesinvolvebasic structuralalterationsin thenormal width continue to occur together,theirintersectionis
verticaland horizontalproportionsof the human body unnaturallyelevatedto the level ofthenavel. This effect
resultsfroma generalatrophyofthe lowerbodywherein
(Pales and de St.-PereuseI976:68-73).
In human beings,halfthe body's lengthtypicallylies the distance fromthe crotchto the groundis typically
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Volume 37, Number 2, April 1996
FIG. 2. PKG-stylefigurines,
illustratingthe centraltendencyof the style.a, Grimaldi "yellow steatite
statuette"; b, large Khotylevopiece; c, Gagarinono. 4; d, Avdeevo no. I; e. Moravany; f,g, h, Kostenkinos.
I, 2, and 4.
representedas about one-thirdof the total body length
Women today,regardlessofrace,weight,or reproducinstead of half (Pales and de St.-PereuseI976:7I ).6
tive history,do not have such disproportionatestructural relationshipsbetween body parts.While Delporte
recognizesthe criticalimportanceofunderstanding
6. The factthatthe lowerextremities
missingbecause of breaksraises legitimatequestionsabout the generalizedatrophyofthe upperand lowerbody(I993a:
of this structural
Whenspecimenspreserve 244, 275), he perpetuatesan unfortunate
however,such distortions
are almostinvariably seeking the explanationin "a psychologicalimperative
seen,and it is reasonableto assume,in theabsenceofanysignifi- which correspondsto a conceptionofwomen in the life
cant contrary
shouldbe used in and behaviorofprehistoricman" (I993 C: Io). Whyspecuthereconstruction
ofspecimenswhichhave survivedonlyas fragments.Amongthosewhichpreservetheiroriginallength,onlythe late about psychologicalmechanismsbeforeexperimen"punchinello"fromGrimaldieven approachesa correctanatomi- tallyexaminingthe materialevidence ofhuman vision?
cal height-width
ratio,whereasthelargeLausselrelief(andproba- We should not simply ascribe the "violation of certain
fromAbriPataudandLa Moutheas well),the
Monpazierand Lespuguefigurines
Chiozza pieces fromItaly,the Willendorf
fromAustria,and Kostenkino. 3, Gagarinonos. 4 and 83-I, and Avdeevono. 76, 77-I,
and 77-2 fromRussia (DelporteI993a:figs. I9, 43, 49, S, 6i, 9i,
97, 99, i28, i68, I73, I83-85,
and i92) all represent
the distance
fromcrotchto groundas closerto one-third
(Pales and de St.-PereuseI976:71). The same structural
is perhapseven more consistently
by the unnatural
elevationoftheverticalmidpointin theseimages.
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body proportions"to the deliberate "accentuation" or
"willful distortion" of female body parts (Gvozdover
i989b; Delporte I993a:259) beforeasking if a physical
mechanismcould be responsibleforthe "violations" observed.I contend that theiroriginlies in what all humans and especially expectantmotherscan and cannot
see when theylook down at theirown bodies.
The distortionsin these firstimages are producedby
threestructuralregularitiesinherentin the body as directlyself-inspectedbut not necessarilyobservedfrom
the point of view of otherhuman beings.First,because
it begins with the same fixedpoint of view, everyone's
visual informationhas the
experienceof self-generated
same structure,includinga distinctivecanon ofproportions, despite variationsexpressiveof individualphysiognomy,age, and gender.Second,because ofthe oblique
is always
angle of self-regard,
and bodypartsclose to the eyes
projecta proportionately
largerimage on the retinathan
those fartheraway. Both an invariantorderof proportional relationshipsand foreshortenedshapes are imposed upon human anatomy viewed egocentrically.In
addition,many objectiverelationshipsbetweenregions
ofthebodycannotbe directlyapprehended,amongthem
the true lengthof the lower extremitiesand the thickness ofthe torso,while otherwiseprominentanatomical
featuressuch as the buttocksare virtuallyor completely
absent fromthe visual field. Finally,since one cannot
visually apprehendone's own body as a whole, any image of self as an independentthree-dimensionalentity
must be the mental combinationor integrationof the
multiple viewpoints possible in direct visual selfinspection.7Multiple viewpoints,having more or less
finiteifoverlappingboundaries,are an inherentrequirement of all (technologicallyunassisted) human selfinspection. Operating together,these structuralregularities provide a material origin for the "lozenge
composition." Moreover, the discontinuous nature of
the visual informationthus producedabout the human
body and the sequence or orderin which it is experienced may be relevant to the content and fabrication
processes seen in othercategoriesof femalerepresentations from the Upper Paleolithic such as "sketches"
(e'bauches)and "buttock" images.
Chronologicaland GeographicalDistribution
In spite of many difficultiesin dating,especiallyamong
findsfromFranceand Italy,a consensusis emerging(but
7. Thereis no logicalreasonto assume thatourfirstportrayal
the humanbodyfollowedthe unifiedor objectiveperspectiveof
modernhuman anatomy.The currentconventionforthe fulllengthhumanbodyassumesthatwe see otherhumansas ifthey
were standingat an elevationand/ordistancesufficient
line of sightto bisectthe body'sverticalaxis. Such an idealized
imageimpliesa habitof lookingat othersfromsufficient
distanceto ignoreproximalforeshortening
andrelatesultimatelyto how we objectivelyknow the humanbodyto be constructedratherthanhow we routinelyspe it.
in Female Figurines1 23I
see Bahn and VertutI988:85; SofferI987:335-36)
the vast majorityof these images were created in the
middle Upper Paleolithic and are stylisticallydifferent
fromthose of the later Magdalenian (Delporte I993a:
of the hu24I;
I993b:243). These firstrepresentations
man figureare centeredin the Gravettianassemblages
(UpperPerigordianV3 or Noaillian) ofFranceand related
easternvariantsof that techno-complex,especially the
Pavlovian in the Czech Republic and the Kostenkianin
Russia (29,000-23,000
B.P.). ForconvenienceI shall label
thisstyleofimage the Pavlovian-Kostenkian-Gravettian
(hereafter PKG) (Delporte I993a:2I3;
and Keeley I990:579;
SofferI987:344). Images of this
style are most often small-scale statuettes carved in
stone,bone, and ivory,with a fewearlyPavlovianexamples modeled in a formof firedloess (Vandiveret al.
I989, Sofferet al. I993). They use the same materials
and techniques and distinctivesculpturalrenderingof
mass seen in animal sculpturesfromearlierAurignacian
sites at Vogelherd and Geissenklosterle(Hahn et al.
Mellars i989:362-63;
White I989:98) and from
later Pavlovian sites at Dolni Vestonice, MoravanyLopata, Piredmosti,Pavlov i (Delporte I993b:247), and
Kostenki i (Abramova i967a, b). This sculpturalquality, seen also in stronglycarved bas-reliefsof female
figuresfromfour French Gravettiansites (Laussel, La
Mouthe, Abri Pataud, and Terme Pialat), contrasts
sharplywith the thoroughlytwo-dimensionalnatureof
later Magdalenian engravedand paintedhuman figures
and animals commonlysaid to markthe "birth"ofrepresentationalart (Delporte I 993b:243).
are concentrated
Magdalenianhuman representations
primarilybetween i 5,ooo and i I,000 B.P. (Magdalenian
fromthis ear3 through6) and are stylisticallydifferent
lier activity.Most of them parallel in time the famous
decorated caves of France and Spain and consist of
" which
sketchyengravedand painted"anthropomorphs,
on the basis ofan occasional erectpenis and tuftoffacial
hair are consideredmales, and equally schematic but
much more consistentlyrenderedand farmore numerous "profile"or "buttock" images,now almost univerfemales(BosinskiI99I; Delporte
sallyseen as portraying
I993a, b; Duhard I993b; Feustel I967; RosenfeldI977).
The consistencywith which the more numerous buttock or profileimages of femalesare renderedstandsin
marked contrastwith the relativerarityand varietyof
the cursorilyengravedand painted Magdalenian male
"anthropomorphs."This quantitative and qualitative
in renderingmales duringthe Magdalenian
echoes an even more pronounced gender difference
among the earlierimages.
It must be emphasized that these two sets of human
images are separatedby as much as io,ooo years,and
theirrelianceupon the second and thirddimensionsrespectively shows that they follow differentdevelopmental trajectories(Conkey I985:30I).
The experience
of arthistorydemonstratesthat the socioeconomic and
cultural context supportingsuch formalvocabularies
could be as diverseas those separatingthe abstracttwodimensionalformsofChristianRomanesque and Byzan-
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
tine art fromthe naturalisticthirddimensionof pagan TABLE I
Greek and Roman sculpture.
Pavlovian, Kostenkian,and GravettianSites with
Radiocarbon dates for the importanteastern Gra- StylisticallyRelated Female Figurines
vettian or Pavlovian site of Dolni Vestonice in Moravia indicatethatarchaicformsofPKG-styleimages first
emergeas earlyas 30,000 to 28,000 B.P. (DelporteI993a:
withmost dates fallinginto the 26,000
range (Delporte I993b:244). Other dates rangingfrom
to 2I,000
B.P. forKostenki i on the Don River
in Russia (p. 245), 27,ooo to 25,000 B.P. forPavlov in the
Abramova (I967),
Abramova (i967),
Delporte (I993a)
Abramova (i967a,
b), Praslov
ansk in easternEurope,fromaround27,000 to 23,000
2I3; I993b:244; Soffer
B.P. (DelporteI993a:I84,
Dolni Vestonice
Czech Republic
Czech Republic
Czech Republic
Czech Republic
Absolon (I949)
Zotz (i968)
Delporte (I993a)
Delporte (I993a)
Delporte (I993a)
Passemard (I938),
Graziosi (i960)
Passemard (I938),
Radmilli (i969)
Graziosi (i960),
Abri Pataud
Movius (I977)
Passemard (I938),
La Mouthe
Dickson (i99o)
Lalanne and
de Saint-Perier
Clottes and Crou
Delporte (1993a)
Breuil and
Terme Pialat
Tursac (Abri
Delporte (I993a)
Delporte (i960)
Czech Republic(p. I44), 23,000 to 2i,600
at Abri
Pataud in France (Movius I977), and 25,000 B.P. forthe
Russian site Khotylevo support the conclusion that
first-phasePKG image making clusters around one of
two interstadials-the Tursac in the west and the Bri-
absolute datWhile such precisionmay be unwarranted,
ing clearlyindicates"a certainchronologicalhomogeneity among sites" with PKG-style activity (Delporte
Geographically,most sites with PKG-styleimages are
culturalcorridorconlocated in a 3,ooo-kilometer-long
necting the northernslopes of the Pyreneeswith the
rivervalleys of European Russia.8 To the south of this
"female statuettezone" (Delporte I993b:244), notable
late examples are known fromItaly (Radmilli I969);
none have been found in Spain. The contrastbetween
thewide geographicaldistributionofthe earlyPKG style
and the limited extent of the classical FrancoCantabrian cave art during the Magdalenian demonstratesagain the distinctnaturesof these traditionsand
argues against any "single cumulative, gradual trajectoryof artisticdevelopment"capable of accountingfor
reproduction"ofthevarithe "contexts"or "differential
ous "systemsofvisual imagery"now understoodas constitutingthe Upper Paleolithic record (Conkey I983:
2 I 0-2.2).
To date approximately40 intact or mostly intact
figuresin the PKG stylehave been published,and about
twice that number of figuresare known as fragments
(BissonandBolducI994, DelporteI993a, Gamblei982,
Pales and de St.-PereuseI976, Praslov I985). The fragmentaryand poorlypreservednatureofmuch ofthe evidence and the factthatsome sites yieldedlargenumbers
of findswhereas othersare known onlyfromindividual
pieces make it difficultto describethe geographicaldistributionof these images quantitatively.For example,
more than 70 pieces have been identifiedfromfoureastern sites-Dolni Vestonice (6), Gagarino(8), Khotylevo
(5), and Kostenki(53). Abramova(i967b) reports47 fragmentaryworks, mostly heads, from Kostenki alone.
Brassempouyand Grimaldi show similar concentrated
relatedto PKG-styleimages,Siberianfigu8. Whileundoubtedly
rinesfromBuret'and Mal'ta near Lake Baikal,east of the Ural
Mountains,are not includedin this studybecause theyare georemoved(5,ooo km fromnearestRussiansites),stylgraphically
in formand content,and laterthan European
examples (Abramovai967b; Delporte I993a; Graziosi I960;
I968a; McDermottI985).
activity,whereas only individual pieces were foundat
Moravany in the Czech Republic, Savignano and Chiozza in Italy, and Abri Pataud, Le Mouthe, Lespugue,
Monpazier, Sireuil, and Tursac in France. Quantitative
approachesbecome even more problematicif one also
attempts to count possible variant and unfinished
"sketches." A saferindicatoris the numberofsites from
which PKG-styleimages are known. On the basis of eior stylisticanalysis,I identifysuch imtherstratigraphy
ages at 24 Upper Paleolithic sites (see table i).
Withinthe stylisticparadigmdefinedby these sites,
regionalvariationsdo exist (Delporte I993a, b). Furthermore,where an adequate sample is available, as in Russia, intra-and even intersitedistinctionscan be demonstrated(Gvozdover I989b). There are subtle variations
in height/widthratios, details of arms and heads, and
orientationof major body regions which may or may
not prove to be of semiological significance.Claims of
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"empiricalvariability"(Dobres i992b:249) ortrueheterogeneity among these earliest works (Hadingham
Nelson I993:5I;
Pales andde St.-Pereuse
SofferI987:336) can be defended,however,
only by ignoringa clear centraltendencydefiningthe
style as a whole. General qualities and particulartraits
characterizeall categoriesof culturalartifacts,and it is
not necessarily a methodological mistake to speak
"about both the diversityand homogeneityof prehistoric material culture in the same breath" (Dobres
igg2a:8). While acceptingthat "the unique featuresof
Palaeolithic art are . . . vital clues to any attempt at
and that PKG-style
interpretation"(Layton i992:2i9)
figurines,"like any otherarchaeologicalobject,contain
enumerablevariables that can be quantifiedand compared," one must also acknowledge a distinctiveapproach to formand contentthat is more than "just one
subset of superficial . . . attributes" associated with the
nude female body (SofferI987:336). Real femalebodies
do not tapertop and bottom,carrytheirbuttocksabove
the tailbone, or possess the other distortionsand anatomical omissions which definethe PKG style.
Since stone tools from open-air Russian sites have
long been recognizedas relatedto industriesfromCentralEurope(see Gvozdoveri989b:32; Praslov i985:i82),
it is quite probablethat theirhuman figurinesare also
related.For Delporte the common lithic characteristics
underlyingregionalvariations"imply,ifnot homogeneity among European Gravettiangroups,at least a measure of similarityworthrecognizing"(I993b:244). As in
the lithic assemblages,the "stylisticunity" and "figurative paternity"seen between "remarkablyhomogeneous" PKG-style images from Russian sites at Kostenki, Gagarino, Avdeevo, and Khotylevo and those
fromwesternGravettianand CentralEuropeanPavlovian sites reveal common selectiveprocesses.Thereis no
theoreticalimpedimentto studyingthe contextof such
art.At the
choices in the formsoftheirrepresentational
core of the PKG style lies a set of departuresor deviationsfroman otherwiseanatomicallyaccuraterepresentation of the human body (Abramova i967b:67; Delporte I993a:244, 259, 275), and accordingto Gzovdover
this "stylisticdeformationof the naturalbodyrevealsa
common tendencythroughoutEurope" (I989b:79).
Previous Interpretations
in Female Figurines1233
rennialappeal-although sometimeswith peculiarconsaw enlarged
sequences. For example, Piette (I902:775)
fattybuttocksin a piece fromGrimaldiand institutionalized a long-lastingfascinationwiththeunusual condition of steatopygia.Althoughhaving little in common
beyondampleness,the posteriorsof subsequentdiscoveries at Willendorfand Laussel in i908, Lespugue in
i922, and Savignanoin I924 fueledthe lamentabletendencyto see all prehistoricpeculiaritiesof the buttocks
as steatopygous.
Earlythis century,ethnographicobservationsencouraged the equally pervasive idea that all prehistoricart
magic (Reinach
was involvedwith huntingand fertility
I903). Originallyfocusedon parietalart,the hypothesis
was extended with subsequent recognitionof humans
among the animals. Barely recognizable Magdalenian
withanimal and human featuresand
exuberantlyfemale PKG-style figurineswere thought
alike rituallyengagedin ensuringthe success of immediate and futurehunts (Begouen,ig29a, b; Breuil i952;
Reinach I903; Saccasyn-Della Santa I947:9-2i).
or withoutthe magical element,the idea thatPKG-style
exaggerationssignal a symbolicinterestin fertility
fecundityhas been very influential(Abramova i967b,
BurkittI934, Pales and de St.-PereuseI976, Ucko and
Passemard's I938 demonstrationthattruesteatopygia
is in fact rarely representedhad the perverse consethis idea that the enorquence of only strengthening
mous hips (and breasts)offemalefigureshad to be symbolic. When the fascinationof male scholarswith such
attributesfused with magico-religious,ethnographic,
and even Freudianideas (Neumann I955:98), a host of
analogical possibilitiesarose,rangingfromthe aesthetic
ideal of obese women (Schuchhardti926) and ethological signals of "biological readiness" (Guthrie I984:59)
to prosaic yearningsfor erotic stimulation and other
masculine sociosexual drives(Absolon I949:204;
Levy I948:58;
Jelinek i988:220;
Zotz I955). For some it seemed obvious
that the bulgingvolumes of PKG-stylefigurines"were
made, touched, carved, and fondledby men" because
"clearlyno othergroupwould have had such an interest
in the female form" (Collins and Onians I978:I2-I4).
For anotherit was equally self-evidentthat this "early
erotica" bore "a great resemblanceto the images portrayedin men's toilet stalls" and must be "an artmade
bymen about male preoccupations"notunlike thatseen
today in men's magazines (Guthrie I984:59-7I).
emphasis in female images on sexual traitsratherthan
personalfeaturessuch as the face was seen as a logical
consequence of another perceived origin for animal
art-as huntingtrophies.As trophiesdepictingacts of
rape, kidnap,or murder,PKG-styleimages would have
epitomized masculine status symbols by representing
"brave acts among males" to promotegroupsolidarity
(Eaton I978; I979:7).
Feministscholarshave soundlycritiquedthe methodological limitationsofthe "decidedlyandrocentric"par-
Much that has been writtenon the significanceand
functionof Upper Paleolithic female images involves
some analogical or symbolichypothesisas to why they
departfroman otherwiseobjectiverealism.One endurthis reing approachresolvesthe conflictby identifying
currentincongruitywith anomalous or unusual categories of visual information.Whetherscholarshave found
the Negroid race in Europe (Piette I902:773),
ofthe femalelifecycle (Rice I98I), enlargedor hypertrophic breasts (HardingI976), or obesityand the physiological consequences of maternity(Duhard I993a, b),
thepossibilityofobservationalexactnesshas exertedpe- adigm (Dobres igg2b:245) and "hierarchized and gen-
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
(Mack I99-2: 235, .237)
operatingin these and other male-centeredanalogical
approaches.I can onlyecho Dobres's conclusionthatthe
attempt "to 'naturalize' (male) heterosexual interests
specific to Western industrial society" by imposing
them onto female images created 30,000 years in the
past "is withoutmerit" (igg2b:248).
Finally,many othersfindthe cause forthe same apparent distortionsof the female figurein limitations
imposed by the original material (Abramova i967b:
Clottes and Cerou
66; Breuil and PeyronyI930:45;
A usefulreviewofsuch
been seen as evidenceforthe religioususe ofearlierUpperPaleolithicfemalefigures.Admittedly,thereare suggestive iconographicallinks, such as similar (but not
identical) "disproportionatesexual attributes" (Gold-
man I960-63:8),
buttherehas beenno conclusivedem-
onstrationofformallinkage(McDermottI987). Gimbu-
tas arguespersuasively
forsucha link(I98I,
as do most who make such claims she usually proceeds
as if the link were already established (Mellaart I967,
StoneI976). Unfortunately,
as Ucko pointedout
in I968, it is impossible to eliminate any number of
equally plausible sacred and/orprofanefunctionsif the
apparentlydistortedattributesof PKG-styleimages7are
indeed arbitrarysymbols for which the code has not
been preserved.
By limitingitselfto physical processes known to be
the same todayas duringthe Upper Paleolithic,my hypothesisminimizesthe projectionof a modernsubject's
argumentsis found in Duhard's Realisme de l'image
femininepaleolithique (I993b: I 57-59), and although
ofphysiologihis claims forthe accuraterepresentation
cal historiesin all Upper Paleolithic femaleimages exceed the available evidence,particularlyforMagdalenian pieces, his conclusion that theirattributesreflecta
"deliberatechoice" and not the constraintsofmaterials ideologyinto prehistory
(Mack I992:239). Unlike an
analogy, which only assumes that "the same causal
is persuasive.
Toward midcenturythe enthusiasmforethnographic mechanismsthatoperatedin UpperPaleolithicEurope"
gave way to also operatetoday(LaytonI992:2I3), it can be experihunting-and-fertility-magic
a concern for "context" in Paleolithic art. Controlled mentallytested.How and what a contemporary
excavation at rich Russian sites foundPKG-stylefigu- can or cannot physicallysee of her own body without
rinesin the domestic contextof hut floors,storagepits, the assistance of technologycan be objectivelydeterand niches (Hancar I939-40) and led Efimenko(citedin mined. For women, palpable proofor refutationcould
Abramova I967b:8i) to see female ancestorimages at begin with their own observations,whereas men can
the core of a matrilinealclan organization.The difficul- only approximateor simulate what a woman sees.
intentfromthe archaeologicalcontext
ties of inferring
of these and later Russian discoveriesare discussed by
Gvozdover(i989b:70-78), while discussionofthe "locational tendencies" preservedin western sites can be StylisticVariabilityand Choices in Visual
and Hahn (I993:236foundin Delporte (I993a:259-6i)
37). In spiteofthemeagerevidencepreservedfrommany
at unearlyexcavations,context,writlargeto include all dia- An unstatedassumptionof most previousefforts
chronic and synchronicvariation,continues to domi- derstandingPKG-styleimages is that theydeviate from
nate questions of functionand motivation.
ordinaryanatomical realityfor some symbolic or psyContemporarycognitive and information-exchangechological purpose. Thus, the parts of the female body
involvedin reproductiveor eroticactivitiesare accentumodels have also exertedtheirinfluence(Gamble i982,
I993, I986). Althoughthe microscopicevidence which ated or enlargedto symbolize societal values, whereas
Alexander Marshack thoughtrevealed lunar calendars the individualizingand self-actualizingcomponentsof
has beenchallenged
(d'ErricoI989, Whitei982), hishy- face,hands, and feetare neglectedbecause theyare inpothesisthatUpper Paleolithic artrepresentedseasonal significantto the message (Giedion i962:434; Gvozand other environmentalperiodicitiesas part of a sto- doverI 989b:5 I; NeumannI 953). The appealofsuchan
ried, time-factoredsymbolic system remains a viable idea is understandable,since individuallyand as a class
possibility. Marshack calls specific attention to the PKG-style images reflectchoices in the information
probableoperationin UpperPaleolithicculturesof"sto- theyrepresent.First,as previouslystressed,some parts
ried equations . . . [about] the primaryprocesses and ofthe femalebodydo indeed appearenlargedand others
functionsof woman-including maturation,menstrua- neglected or distorted.Why these specific departures
tion, copulation, pregnancy, birth, and lactation" from objective human physiognomyand not others?
(iggia:282). Along with Conkey, who suggestedthat Furthermore,once chosen, what cultural mechanism
PKG-stylefiguresmight have been motivated by im- sustained the impressive constancy of the PKG style
provementsin "obstetricpractices" or "neonatal care" throughtime and space? Whyare the lower extremities
Marshackdeservescreditforbeingamong of both Frenchand Russian pieces too shortto be ana(i983:222),
the firstto recognizethatfemaleimages could represent tomicallycorrect?Whyare thebuttocksoffemalestatuprocesses of primaryconcern to the physical lives of ettes fromwidely separatedstrataelevated (fig.3)?
Secondly, a strikingselectivityin genderexists. An
The widespreadworshipof a mothergoddessattested examinationofthe originalsrevealsthatonlyone ofthe
by the oldest writtenrecordsand the prevalenceof fe- six figureslong claimed as males in the literaturefor
or earlier levels can
male imagery during the interveningNeolithic have Pavlovian-Kostenkian-Gravettian
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in Female Figurines| 235
3. PKG-stylefigurinesin profile,showingcommon massing of three-dimensionalforms,including elevated
buttocksrelative to tailbones (a, b, c). a, Grimaldi "yellow steatite statuette"; b, Willendorfno. I.; c, Lespugue;
d, Gagarino no. 3; e, Gagarino no. I; f,Kostenki I no. 3.
withstandeven cursoryscrutiny.Gvozdover(Ig8gb:56)
also reportsa male fromAvdeevo and Praslov(I985:I86)
one fromKostenki.If confirmed,these will be the first
of this genderever foundin easternEurope (Abramova
i967a, b).9If men were involvedin creatinghuman images at this time, why are virtuallyno males represented?
In i902, Piette decided that two fragmentary
bodies fromBrassempouy,originallypublishedin I895,
at Brassempouy.Afterexaminingthesepieces,I join Lu-
in concluding
originalintention,the pubic nodes ofthese fragmentary
pieces lack definitionand do not certainlydepict the
penis.1oIf unfinished,such undifferentiated
protuberances could easily have been destinedto become either
the generalizedmons veneris commonlyseen in early
femalestatuettesor the developedvulva foundin a few
specimens(McDermottI985:I 99-202). On thebasisof
were males. Kuhn (I936:226), Passemard(I938:20), what we know about the developmentof later,betterSaccasyn-DellaSanta (I947:I62, 199), Leroi-Gourhandocumentedart-historicalperiodstyles,these Brassem-
(i968a:I23), Pales and de St.-Pereuse(I976:pl. I76), and
Duhard (I 993b:3 6, 39) have continuedto identifymales
io. Delportedidnotsee thesenodesas male membersin theoriginal I979 editionofhis important
Duhard's(I993b) reexamination,
he now finds
9. Accordingto Praslov(I985:i86), "these are onlysuppositions the two pieces "convincingmasculinefigures"(DelporteI993a:
since theydo not have genitalorgans."
26-27; I993b:247).
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Volume 37, Number 2, April 1996
pouy pieces could with equal logic be consideredunfinished examples of the far more numerous PKG-style
femalefigurineswith which theysharemanyattributes.
Lalanne's i9i2 identificationof a profilemale archer
in bas-relieffromLaussel has likewise been generally
While claims continue to be made for this or that
isolatedpiece (Lalanneand BouyssonieI94I-46:I39;
Marshack I988), the fact remains that only one male
image can be convincinglyidentifiedin the PavlovianKostenkian-Gravettian
acceptedin theliterature
I975 :4 I2; KuhnI936:
leolithicartisticactivity.This standsin markedcontrast
Leroi- to theunequivocal sexual realismand extensivestylistic
232; Lalanne and Bouyssonie I94I-46:I38;
Gourhani968a:I23; Luquet I930:I7; Saccasyn-Della membershipwhich characterizefemalefigures.The reSanta I947:I64), althoughthe imagepossessesno pri- finementofformand balance and the consummatemasPales labeled it teryofmaterialsobservedin better-preserved
maryor secondarysexual characteristics.
sexuallyindeterminatein I976 (pl. I77-55), and Duhard figurinesspeak to a long traditionoffemaleimage maksubsequentlyinterpretedit as a juvenile female(I993b: ing and an early investmentof physical and aesthetic
work has more energiesnever seen in Upper Paleolithicmale images.
73). Compositionallythis one-of-a-kind
The scarcityof male images is inconsistentwith conin commonwith variantPKG-stylestatuettesfromTursac and Sireuilthoughtto representprofileviews ofado- temporaryclaims of the heterogeneityof earlyhuman
lescent females than with any known male representa- images. The argumentof Leon Pales that therewas far
more diversityof styleand genderthan has been recogtion(DelporteI960).
In I97I Hahn describeda "male" statuettethat had nized is particularlywell known. Accordingto Pales,
of the undue attentiongiven the blatant sexualityof the
been reconstructedfrombadlydeterioratedfragments
mammothtusk originallyexcavated in I939. This very so-called Venus figurineshas caused us to see similar
poorlypreservedivoryfigurinefromHohlenstein-Stadel, attributeseverywhere.On the basis of line drawingsilhave gone throughthreecon- lustrating480 "human" images assembledforhis study
whose over 2oo fragments
(I969, I983, and I988), is said to resemble of engravedfiguresfromthe Frenchsite of La Marche
(Pales and de St.-PereuseI976), he concludes that nuthemale foundat Brno(Delporte 1993a:i 52; Hahn I97I:
Arrivingindepen- merousUpper Paleolithicrepresentations
ofmales were
24I), but this is a spurioussimilarity.
also made, with most images actuallybeingsexuallyindentlyat our conclusions,I in I985 and Schmidin I988
found it far more reasonable that the piece originally determinate.However,it is onlywhen worksin all merepresenteda female. The penis identifiedby Hahn dia fromall regions of Europe are lumped with those
is buta serendipitous
by fromthe much later Magdalenian that this conclusion
weatheringof the concentricivorylamellae can be defended.Not only does Pales ignorebasic temin the tusk; it is not intentionallycarved (McDermott poral and formal distinctionsand treat the immense
20,ooo-year span of the EuropeanUpper Paleolithicas a
offired culturalwhole but he counts items withoutregardfor
In I939 Absolon identifiedas male a fragment
loess excavated at Dolni V6stonice.A reexaminationof stylisticattributesor skill of execution. Shapeless onethe originalin the Moravian Museum in Brno renders of-a-kindlumps and incomplete fragmentsare attribdubious even its humanness. An active imaginationis uted equal quantitativesignificancewithstylisticallyreneeded to see a lower torso with a diffusetruncated lated and intactworksofrareworkmanshipand beauty.
mound located betweenthe stumpsofwhat mightonce By collapsingall images ever thoughtto representa huhave been legs. The "penis," forexample,is nearlyequal man figureinto a single pool, he createsa nonhomogein diameterto one ofthe legs,and the essentiallyshape- neous sample incapable of supportinghis conclusions
less piece actuallyresemblesthe frontor rearlegs ofone (McDermotti 9 9i). Whatmightbe defendedas a statistiof the numerousbrokenanimal statuettesfoundat the cal descriptionof the Upper Paleolithic in its entirety
site. Of the approximately3,700 modeled "ceramic" actually obscures the dominant representationalform
fragmentsfromDolni Vestonice, the representational from29,ooo to 23,000 B.P.
In his corpus of 480 figures,forexample,Pales classiintent of more than 3,000 cannot be determined,but
among the remainderthereare 77 nearlywhole and 630 fies 242 as "realistic" and only 238 as "humanoid."
ofhu- Thus, almost half look so little like human beingsthat
brokenanimals comparedwith only I4 fragments
man figures(Vandiveret 'al. I989). What Absolon saw accuracy requirestheybe given a separatedesignation.
as a penis is more likelythe stumpofeitheran animal's Of the 242 images classified by Pales as realistic, 25
head or tail and its frontor rearlegs thana one-of-a-kind (io%) are identifiedas males and 97 (40%) as females;
representationof a human male (0. Soffer,personal the remainingi2o (50%), lackingprimaryor secondary
featuresof gendersuch as genitalia,breasts,or beards,
communication,August 8, I988).
The muscular fragmentof an ivoryfigurefromBrno, are classifiedas sexuallyindeterminate.How "realistic"
also in the Moravian Museum, with its more correctly is a human image if it lacks such fundamentaldetails,
proportionedstump of a penis at the base of the torso, and how valid is a classificationsystemwhich accepts
does, however,createa realisticimpressionofmasculin- all suggestiveformsas evidenceofcommoncontent(reity.The head, torso,and leftarm of the Brnoman is all alistic humans) without regardforcultural context or
that survives of the only statuettefound in an Upper mannerand styleof representation?
Of the 25 males identifiedby Pales, 2i are twoPaleolithic burial. A unique findwith no known stylistic antecedentor descendent,it can certainlybe ac- dimensionalworksdatedto the Magdalenian,thousands
ofyearsafterthe spreadofPKG-styleimages.The malecepted as Pavlovian withoutformalconflict.
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in Female Figurines 2e37
ness of threeof the remainingfour(Brassempouy,Hoh- lithic,and when males do emergeduringthe Magdalenlenstein-Stadel,and Dolni Vestonice) is also question- ian their representationalaccuracy seldom if ever apable, as we have seen. In addition,of Pales's 25 realistic proaches that encountered in PKG-style female
males, It are fromLa Marche,while io ofthe remaining images.11
I3 sites producingsuch images are also located in the
classic Franco-Cantabrianregionof Magdalenian art.
The contemporaryvogue of emphasizingrepresenta- ComparingModern Bodies with
tional diversityamong PKG-style images is not sup- PrehistoricArtifacts
portedby the evidence. By pointingto the naturalsymmetryof the sexes to challengepreexistingbiases, Pales There is an obvious relationshipto be seen betweenthe
did call needed attentionto the way in which genderis stylisticattributesof Upper Paleolithic representations
actually representedamong PKG-style images. How- of the female body in generaland PKG-styleimages in
ever,much needless confusionabout stylisticheteroge- particularand the structuralregularitiesof formand
neity or homogeneityin the Upper Paleolithic would contentcontainedin those minimal viewpointsneeded
have been avoided if studentsof genderin prehistoric by a woman to see her own body.Personalexperimentaimages had applied principleslearnedfromlater,better- tionwill demonstratethat,withoutexternaltechnologiunderstoodstyles of representationalart. Prehistorians cal assistance,a reasonablyinclusiveinventoryrequires
have too oftenfailedto recognizethatformis more in- at least five or six primaryvistas: (i) head and face, (2)
dicative of a common cultural traditionthan content. superioranterioror upperfrontalsurfaceofbody,(3) inIgnoringthis basic tenet of stylisticclassificationhas ferioranterioror lower frontalsurfaceof body,(4) infeled to an undue acceptance of one-of-a-kind
"male" im- riorlateralor lower side surfaceofbody,and (5) inferior
ages to the point of creatinga categoryof masculine posteriorsurface of body, including (a) under-the-arm
wherenone exists.As Delporte observes, views and (b) an over-the-shoulder
the wish to findmales participatingin the firsttradition
i. Faceless heads. Although the seat of visual selfof human image making obscuresthe obvious factthat awareness, the objective appearance of the head and
the complex, multivalentmessage "of the 'Gravettian face is simply not visible froma self-viewingperspecgroup has to do with woman" (I993b:256).
tive.This logicallyexplainswhy-although thereare reOnly slightlyless detrimentalto our understanding gionalvariationsin shape,size, and positionin theheads
of PKG-stylefemale images is the pernicioushabit of of PKG-stylepieces-virtually all are renderedwithout
comparingartifactswith artifactswhen judgingrepre- facial featuresand most seem turneddown towardthe
sentational accuracy. If no objective anatomical stan- body as if to bringit into view.12 The absence of direct
dard is employed, what is meant when breasts are
describedas "normal" (Pales and de St.-PereuseI976:
96-97) or when the thoraxis said to be "normallypro- i i. Some female images could have been "made quicklyand
portioned"(Delporte I993b:248)? Only carefulcompari- crudelyfor one limited time and use" (MarshackiggIa:287),
othersappearto have beenleftunfinished
at someearlier
son ofimagewiththe anatomicalrealityit "re-presents" whereas
stageofa processthatwouldhave eventuatedin a PKG-style
figucan bring order out of the subjective interpretations rine.In male images,otherthanthe mostgeneralcommonalities
which lace the literatureon this subject. Furthermore, oftechniqueandsubjectmatter(suchas prognathous
an artist'ssuccess in capturingthe appearanceof exter- has beenlittlesuccessin identifying
Nor is anyinternalprogress
nal visual informationcan and should be objectively tic attributes.
accuracyobservedin thisgenderofimage(Leroi-Gourhan
worksare not I2. Facial featuresofanykindare rarelyencountered.
evaluated.Hastily executedone-of-a-kind
The extent
finstatistically culturally equivalent
to whichthe facesof figurines
fromKostenki(no. 83-I) and Avished pieces makingup a clear stylistictraditionofrep- deevo (no 77-I) are developedappearsto be unique in the record
resentationaleffort.To assume otherwiseis to ignore (Delporte I993:fig. I73, I84; Praslovi985:figs.2, 5), althoughparalcan be drawnbetweenthemand even moreshadowyand inthe mechanismsof culturethattrainartistsand sustain lels
completeformsseen at Monpazier(Clottesand Cerou I 970:fig. I)
the chronologicaland geographicalspreadof a style.
and on the Grimaldi"undescribedfigurine"(DelporteI993a:fig.
Indeed, a classificationsystem sensitive to the ba- 94). The positionof the eyes is perhapsindicatedin the "black
sics of art-historicalstyle dramaticallyalters Pales's Venus"no. i ofDolni Vestonice(Marshackiggia:fig.I7I) butat
counts of male and sexually indeterminatePKG-style most suggestsonly an "eerie and ghostly'spirit'face" (P. 377).
The PeabodyMuseum "Janus"figurine
fromGrimaldihas rough
images. Males are, as we have seen, virtuallyabsent indentations
foreyesandmouth,andevenmoreshadowypossibilifromthe record.Further,if only a few of the so-called tiesexistforSavignanoandfigurine
no. 2 fromGagarino(Delporte
sketches, which range from admittedly conjectural I993a:fig. 90, 97, i90). The absenceof facialfeatureson the six
roughed-out"blanks" to pieces lacking only the final recentlyrediscovered
is consistentwithpriorobservations
(Bissonand Bolduc
definitionof breastsand abdomen (see fig.4), are recog- Grimaldi
Giventhe prominent
in our
nized on the basis of numeroussharedformalattributes affectiveexperienceof otherhuman beings,its generalabsence
as unfinishedfemale images (ratherthan being consid- fromPKG-styleimagessupportstheautogenoushypothesis.
is alwaysavailable,and
ered sexually indeterminate),the dominance of female ever,certainself-viewed
overmale representationsduringthe openingmillennia this may explainwhy the best-executed
arefoundon disembodied
of the Upper Paleolithicbecomes overwhelming.An or- Dolni Vestonice
(DelporteI993a:figs. 7, 95, I43) and not on full
the male figurehas yet figures.
ganized traditionofrepresenting
Whilenoneofthesehavea fullinventory
to be identifiedforthe early and middle Upper Paleo- all do have large,prominentnoses,and thereadercan verifythat
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Volume 37, Number 2, April 1996
4. Aurignacian (a, b) and PKG-style(c-f) buttonor caplike "headed" ivoryrods, sketches,and
unfinishedfigurinessuggestiveof a time-factored
fabricationprocess beginningwith the head. a, Abri Cellier;
b, Vogelherd;c, Pavlov; d, Gagarino sketch; e, Brassempouy"girl"; f,shortfigurefromGagarino ivoryrod
containingtwo unfinishedfigurines.
visual knowledgemay also explain why the most commonlyencounteredformof head is a generalizedround
shape vaguely reminiscentof an emergentmushroom
"cap" or "button." Not only is this formfoundon the
French,Austrian,and Russian figurines
stronglyindicatbut it predominatesamong fragments,
ing that most missingheads should be similarlyreconstructed(Abramova I967b:pls. 9 and io). Its stylistic
dominance is furthersupportedby its presenceon several variantfigurinesmade frommammothphalanges
or metacarpals,thoughtto representsquattingpregnant
and Avdeevo (JelinekI975:figs.
642, 643).
the nose looms largein one's visual fieldwhen the face is the
focusofattentionbut disappearsfromconsciousnesswhenvisual
attentionshiftsto thebody.
With the head held upright,the body is absent from
the visual field.'3 This discontinuity,in conjunction
with the elemental fact that the human eye and selfconsciousness alike reside in the head, reinforcesthe
identificationof numerousEuropean Upper Paleolithic
pieces, sometimes consisting of little more than a
roundedbuttonor caplike "head" at one end of a rod or
tusk,as eitherabbreviatedor incompletehumanfigures.
Three lines of evidence supportthis possibility.First,
similarundefinedbutton-likeheads at the ends of suggestivelyshaped rods of Aurignacianprovenance,such
I3. The autogenoushypothesisthusprovidesa parsimoniousexplanationwhyheadlessbodiesandfacelessheadsareso frequently
seenin UpperPaleolithicartandsuggestsa generalrule:The differentialencounterofbodypartsin theself-viewing
visualfielddeterminesthe frequency
oftheirappearancein images.
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as those fromAbri Cellier and Vogelherd,could be earlier effortsat creatinga full-lengthimage of the human
body (Delporte I993a:fig. i2i; White i989:98). Second,
on the basis of decorativemotifsshared with finished
figurines,Gvozdover has convincinglyidentifiedKostenkianrods with stylisticallysimilar roundedends as
abstracted or schematic female images (i989a). The
thirdis the frequentidentificationof what are seen as
preliminarysketchesthatcould easilybe figurinesinterruptedor abandoned at some stage priorto completion
In fact, Praslov (I985:i82)
claims that sufficientunfinishedexamples have been
foundon the Russian Plain to allow him to follow the
stages in making eastern PKG-stylefigurines
from"initial cuttingto finalpolish." The existenceof a
common fabricationprocesswhich beginswith the major horizontaldivisions of the body ratherthan with its
outline or silhouette could be logically related to the
sequential bendingof the body necessaryfordirectvisual self-knowledge.
Sometimes these sketches are little more than tusks
at the narrowend,
with a possible head differentiated
such as Pavlov no. 32460 (B. Klima, personalcommunication, August 9, i988) and Avdeevo no. 4 (Abramova
I967b:pl. 27), or ivory rods with a button or caplike
"head" at one end as seen in earlierAurignacianexamples (see fig.4). The lattercategoryincludes the "doll"
sketches from Brassempouy,one of the sketches reportedfromGagarino(Delporte I993a:figs. I3, I87), and
a similar piece fromPavlov (Marshack iggia:fig. i63).
Although long associated with finishedfemale statuettes,such pieces actuallypossess no primaryor secondary sexual characteristics.Marshack has argued that
these and othersketchesweremade rapidlyfora specific
one-timeuse (iggia:287) and neverintendedto be finished. Although logical, such a conclusion implies a
knowledgeof motivationwhich we in factdo not have.
It would be best to restrictquestions of procedureto
thosepieces thatclearlyreflecta commonprocess.What
we know is that some pieces definitelyrepresentunfinished femalefigurinesat different
stages of completion
and that ivoryrods or tusks with roundedbuttons or
caplike "heads" could representan even earlierstage in
this fabricationprocess. The unusual ivory rod containingtwo figurinesjoined at the head fromGagarino,
forexample, clearlyshows different
stages of carvingin
each figure(Tarassov I97I), with the shorterfigurehavthanthetaller.
inglegs and abdomenmoredifferentiated
A comparable "in-process quality" is clearly seen in
Kostenkistatuetteno. 5 and Khotylevono. 3 in the east
and the Brassempouy "girl" in the west (Delporte
I993a:figs. II, I70, 203). Similarroughed-out
development is seen in fragmentsof the lower body preserved
at Brassempouyand Gagarino (Delporte I993a:figs. 6,
It is possible that fabricationof a human figurineinvolved firstdifferentiating
a "head" froma "body" of
materialand then followingan essentiallylogical timefactoredsequence which mightremainunfinished.Both
the autogenous hypothesisand the evidence of these
in Female Figurines1.239
pieces, iftheyare unfinished,predictthatthis emergent
process began with the head, the seat of visual selfawareness, and then employed the sequential movements necessary for complete visual self-inspection
with attention focused last on the central parts of a
woman's bodyinvolvedin reproduction.Pregnancyand
self-inspectionboth involve sequential stages whose
progressmightwell be revealedin
the processes preservedin unfinishedpieces. During
pregnancy,some partsof the body change while others
remainthe same, and the partswhich undergothe most
change appear to be defined last in the fabrication
2. Superioranterioror upperfrontalsurfaceof body.
Standing erect with the head bowed presents to a
view ofthe upper
woman's eye a stronglyforeshortened
frontalsurface of the thorax and abdomen, while the
breasts,being close to the eyes, will loom large in the
visual field. Creation fromthis perspectiveprovidesa
parsimoniousexplanationforthe voluminousnessand
distinctivependulous elongationroutinelyobservedin
the breasts of PKG-style figurines.'4When looked at
fromabove, as a woman observesherself,the breastsof
PKG-stylefigurinesassume the natural proportionsof
the averagemodernwoman of childbearingage. For example, the dimensions of the breasts of the oftillustratedVenus of Willendorfare comparableto those
of a 26-year-oldmother-to-bewith a 34C bust (see fig.
fromabove, even the apparent
5). When foreshortened
dimensionsof the Venus of Lespugue and
the best-preserved
figurinefromDolni Vestonice enter
into a reasonablynormal,albeit buxom, range (see fig.
6). In addition,the fact that the true thicknessof the
is logupperbodycannot be experiencedbyself-viewing
ically consistentwith the abnormalthinnessseen in the
torsosof many PKG-stylefigurines(see fig.3).
When viewed fromabove, most otherapparentanatomical distortionsor omissions of the upperbody undergo similar realistic transformations.For example,
PKG-stylefigurinescommonlyhave what seems to be
only an ill-proportioned,
the upper arm represented,with the forearmmerging
into the side of the body. However, in looking down
with arms at the side, a woman does see only the foreshortenedfrontsurfaceof her upperarm,with the forearmsnormallyoccludedbelow thebreasts.Anotherconvention explained by the foreshortening
and occluding
effectof a self-viewingperspectiveis the unnaturally
large,ellipticalnavel located too close to thepubic trianI4. Claimsofnaturalshapeand size forbreasts(Clottesand C6rou
Pales and de St.-PereuseI976:96-97) cannotwithstand
criticalexamination.Most make erroneouscomparisons
ratherthanbetweenimageand livinghumanbeings(McWhen comparedwith modernanatomy,
areas largeas orlargerthantheentire
torso,whichis beyondthe rangeof physiological
population.Pales's revialone theexpectednormsofa prehistoric
sionistargumentthatbreastsin UpperPaleolithicimagesdo not
fromtherangethatcanbe seentoday,especially
amongmultiparousmothers,is credibleonlyfroma self-viewing
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
5. Autogenous visual informationof the-upperbody. Top, photographicsimulation of what a
26-year-oldCaucasian female of average weightsees when looking down while
standingerect; bottom,same view of Willendorfno. I (cast).
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in Female FigurinesI 24I
6. Oblique aerial views of frontbody surfaces.Top, 30o-year-old
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
gle in several figurines.'5The annular depressionsurroundingthe navel proper,seen obliquely fromabove,
projects just this size ellipse, and when pregnanta
woman cannot see the abdomen below the navel.
Also, the dual role ofhands and armsas bothagentof
fabricationand model could relate to theirvariability
and infrequentrepresentation.Being in constant motion, they have no fixed point of regardin the visual
field and perhaps in human memory.When arm and
hands are crossed over the breasts,they presenttheir
narrowestaspect to the eye in an edge-onview, which
suggestsa rationaloriginforeven the unusual thin"filiform"or threadlikearmsofthe well-knownpieces from
Lespugue and Willendorf.'6
3. Inferioranterioror lowerfrontalsurfaceofbody.A
ofthe lowerbody
seen fromabove would shrinkor narrowtowardthe feet
as if its trueheighthad been compressed.Only the autogenous hypothesisrenders sensible the compressed
stature(or atrophy)of the lower body,includingthe diminutive feet,preservedin some PKG-stylefigurines.
The lower body and feet are optically correctfor the
point of view employedin theirrepresentation.'7
It is also a factthatfora pregnantwoman, inspection
of the upper "half" of the body terminatesat the navel
withthe curvingoutlineofthe distendingabdomen.She
must bend at the waist to bringher lower "half" into
view. Thus the gravidfemale's directvisual experience
ofher full-length
body involves combiningtwo discrete
views which meet at the abdomen near the level of the
navel-which also, contraryto anatomicalfact,appears
to be the widest partof the body.When she looks down
over the interveningmass ofher growingabdomen,she
does not see that the vertical midpoint and greatest
physical width of her body reallyintersectat the level
of the hip joint. The apparent misrepresentationof
heightand width routinelyseen in PKG-styleimages is
actually a sensible symmetricalcombinationof these
otherwisediscontinuousviews. The necessityofuniting
the two views fromabove and below the intervening
mass ofthe woman's pregnantabdomenapparentlyproduced the recurrent"lozenge composition"and the apI5. These large,elongatednavels are foundon the relieffigure
withthe hornfromLaussel,Italianfigurines
Chiozza, the famousWillendorfstatuette,the Dolni Vestonice
and Kostenkistatu"blackVenus"no. i, theMoravanystatuette,
ettes I, 3, and 83-2 (AbramovaI967a:pl. IS; DelporteI993a:fig.
43, 97, 99,
i6i, and I74).
and Lespugue
The well-preserved
are the only intact examples of this arm treatment(Delporte
armsmightbe preI993a:fig. i9, I28), althoughsimilaratrophied
servedin brokenpieces fromLake Trasimeno(Graziosiig6o:fig.
(DelporteI993a:fig. io). Graziosisaw similar
8) and Brassempouy
"puny arms foldedover the breasts"of the Savignanofigurine
(i960:52), but I challengehis interpretation
smallfeetis statexampleofunrealistically
I 7. The best-preserved
uetteno. 3 fromKostenkii. Althoughtheanterior
statuetteare broken,theyappearoriginally
size. The Monpazierfigure
to havebeenofcomparablediminutive
has similarminusculealbeitdamagedfeet,and thesame seemsto
be thecase forAvdeevonos. 76, 77-I, and 77-2 (Clottesand Cerou
I970:fig. i; Delporte I993a:fig.
93a, I28, I83-85).
FIG. 7. Leroi-Gourhan's"lozenge composition,"a
productof the mental combinationnecessaryto
create a full-lengthimage fromthe separate views
required by female self-inspectionoffrontbody
parentlyincorrectproportionson which it is based (see
4. Inferiorlateral or lower side of body. When one
rotates at the hips and raises the arm to look down
obliquely in frontof the shoulder,one sees the side of
the body as expandingfromthe lower torsotowardthe
buttocks beforecontractingas the eye encountersthe
moredistantrectusfemorisand vastus lateralismuscles
of the thighand the bulginggastrocnemiusof the calf.
The feetmay or may not be visible,oftenbeingoccluded
by the interveningbody,particularlythe morerearward
the angle of regard.The apparentcantileveringof the
rectus femorisin frontof the lower gastrocnemiusis
identical with the "bent-knee"postureseen in numerous otherwiseerectUpper Paleolithic images of the human figure(see fig.8). This oblique outline ofthe lower
side not onlycoincideswiththe arrangement
seen in this regionforPKG-styleimages,but its content
is identical with the informationcontained in the socalled buttocks or profileimage which dominates the
Magdalenian (RosenfeldI977:90; Bosinski and Fischer
Bosinski i99I). The typicalabsence of the upper
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in Female Figurines1243
8. Autogenous visual informationoflower side of body. Top, photographicsimulation of modern woman's
view; bottom,same view of Willendorfno. i (cast).
body, shoulders,arms, and head fromthe visual field
when one looks down upon the inferiorlateral surface
ofthe bodyis congruentwith theirconspicuousabsence
in this later categoryof image.
5. Inferiorposteriorsurface of body. There are only
two ways to bringthe remainingdorsal surfacesof the
body into directvision-either by continuingto rotate
the line of sightunderthe arm,thus bringingthe caudal
aspects of the back into sight,or to crane one's neck to
look back over the shoulder.It is the autogenousform
and content of these two approaches which renders
comprehensibletwo categoriesof supposed anatomical
distortionspreviouslyrecognizedin PKG-stylefemale
images (see fig. 9): the rarely encountered rearward
or posteriorfattyenlargementof the buttocksproperly
called steatopygiaand the farmore commonlyencoun-
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
9. Tracingsofphotographsof PKG-stylefigurinesseen fromabove, showinglateral displacement
ofposteriormasses (a, c, d) and rearwardprojection(b). From Grimaldi,a, "yellow steatite statuette";
b, "punchinello"; c, "lozenge"; fromBrassempouy,d,"daggerhandle."
tered lateral deposits of adipose tissue resemblingfat the complete occlusion of the buttocksbelow the tailor bone, and this is the key to understandingan even more
thighsor ridingjodhpursknown as steatotrochanteria
enigmaticdistortionfoundfartherwest-the represen(DuhardI988, I99I; RegnaultI924).
ex- tation of supposedly "upside down" buttocks (Luquet
views. Dependingon the effort
s a. Under-the-arm
In the well-knownivoryfigurine
pended in rotatingand lookingunderthe arm,the view I934:434-35).
will eitherbe limited to a lateral segmentof the lower Lespugue,the figurinein yellow steatitefromGrimaldi,
back above the sacral triangle(tailbone)or,with greater the shatteredivorytorso fromBrassempouyknown as
exertion,may also include a foreshortenedoutline of the "daggerhandle," and a fragmentof firedclay found
the upperbuttockbelow the tailbone. With or without by Klima at Pavlov, a bar or bridgeof materialpresummaximumrotation,theview ofthisregionwill be domi- ably representingthe tailbone lies below the apparent
nated by the lateralbulge of the gluteimedii,while the gluteal cleavage separating the buttocks rather than
more distal glutei maximi are eitheroccluded entirely above as would be anatomicallycorrect(see figs.3a, c).
(with minimal rotationaleffort)or seen only as a fore- From a self-viewingperspective,what has been seen as
shortenedfragment(with greaterrotational exertion). the gluteal cleavage between the buttocksemergesinThus, judgingby thepositionofthe sacral triangle,what stead as the furrowof the lower spine separatingthe
have oftenbeen seen as unnaturallylarge,elevatedbut- lateral glutei medii. The actual gluteal grooveand the
tocks are in factrealisticrenderingsof the gluteimedii, buttocks proper,which objectively extend below the
properlypositionedabove instead of below the tailbone tailbone,have not been representedat all, since theyare
in fact completelyoccluded in anythingless than the
in the self-viewingvisual field.
Intergroupvariationin the rotationaleffortexpended maximumpossible rotationofthe head and eyes to look
in self-inspectioncould thus explain not only the gen- underthe arm.Figurineswithwhat appearto be "upside
eral lateral displacementof mass that has been called down" buttocks actually correctlyrepresentwhat can
view. As with pieces withor steatomeriabut the observedcon- be seen in an under-the-arm
tinuumofregionalvariationin this "condition"as well. out facesand withforearmswhich disappearunderneath
Many Russian pieces appear to have unnaturallylong the breasts,the generalprincipleseems to be thatwhat
loins, flanks,or glutei medii above the sacral triangle cannot be seen tends not to be represented.
An intermediateregionalvariationin self-inspection
shortbuttocksbeand atrophiedor disproportionately
low (Leroi-GourhanI968a:520), as would be consistent routines of the posterioris perhaps preservedin the
with considerablerotationaleffort.Less effortproduces arbitraryhorizontal notch located immediatelyabove
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in Female Figurines1245
the bottomedge of the atrophied"buttocks" of the Ve- sons between the originalartifacts(or theircasts) and
nus of Willendorf.This blunt geometricfeature,which one's own anatomy is the ideal procedure.(Caution is
makes no anatomical sense fromanypointofview other urged to avoid injuryto joints and muscles unaccusinto a tomed to such maneuvers.)I predictthat,when others
is opticallytransformed
than the self-viewing,'8
highly naturalistic foreshortenedimage of the lower have viewed the better-preserved
and "finished"PKGback above a properlypositionedtailbone carriedabove style pieces fromthe point of view that only women
buttocks(see have of theirown bodies, theywill see, as I have, a realan oblique sliverof foreshortened
5b. Over-the-shoulderview. Finally, a more diffi- ism in representationwhich sometimesapproachesscicult and presumablyless frequentroute of dorsal self- entific exactitude. This isomorphic relationshipwith
inspectioninvolves sharplyrotatingthe head, thrusting natureis best seen when the masses of both prehistoric
the chin over the shoulderand peeringobliquelydown- images and contemporary
women are viewed fromcomward out of the cornerof the eye. It is this view which parablycircumscribed"oblique" angles of "self"-regard.
accountsforthe steatopygousformoffattyenlargement. I perceivethe strongestrealismwhen the pieces are held
view the dual masses ofthe glu- relativelyclose to the eyes so thatthe autoscopicprojecIn an over-the-shoulder
tei maximi projectrearwardfromthe bodyinto the field tion of one's own body is wholly or in part replaced
as in steatopygia,completewith the deep gluteal cleav- by that representedby the figurine.This "masking" or
age separatingthe buttocks,seen in works fromSavig- "replacement" possibilityaffordsa point of departure
nano and Grimaldi ("the punchinello") and Monpazier forfuturestudies.
From a self-viewingperspective,PKG-stylefigurines
(see fig. 9, b). Again what had been puzzling extremes
realisticwhen represent normally proportionedwomen of average
of human anatomybecome surprisingly
consideredfromthe probablepointofview employedby weightat different
stages in theirbiological lives. They
executedmillenniabetheircreators(see fig.i i). Thus, PKG-styleimages show constitutea formof self-portrait
the most consistent realism or organic verisimilitude fore the invention of mirrors.What has been seen as
when conscientiouslyexaminedfroma retinalangleand evidenceofobesityor adiposityis actuallytheforeshortdistancethatmimics those requiredforinspectingone's eningeffectof self-inspection(McDermottI988). Thus,
own body. What have been seen as gross corpulence, the autogenous hypothesisis in basic agreementwith
puzzling anatomical omissions, and exaggerateddistor- the life-cyclerealism perceivedin this class of artifacts
tions become instead orderlyconventionsforrepresent- (e.g.,Duhard I993a, b; Rice I98I) but requiresviewers
ofsubjectiveoptical to rotate theirpoint of view approximatelygo'. When
ing the foreshortened
properlyviewed, stylisticor structuralregularitiessuch
as the generalizedatrophyof the upperand lower body
of the "lozenge composition" emerge as the function
of a common creativeprocess determinedby the fixed
position of the eyes. It is possible that the multiplevisThe evidence supportingthe autogenous hypothesisis tas requiredby self-viewing
are preservedin thedifferent
striking,but furtherexamination of this hithertoig- stages of unfinishedpieces as well as in the boundaries
nored categoryof informationis requiredto establish definingother categoriesof partial human figuresenits ultimatevalidityand scope. The basic experimental counteredin the Upper Paleolithic. Stylisticvariability
question remains simple. Is the physical point of view observed in figurineswithin and between PKG-style
representedin PKG-stylefemalefigurinesthatof selfor sites and regions,in contrast,would be thelogical conseother?Here at least is a hypothesiswhich can be tested, quence not onlyofwomen's ages and reproductive
histoalthoughcertainevidence should be treatedcautiously. ries but of the probablemorphologicaldiversitydistinCamera lenses, forexample, have propertiesnot found guishingindividualsand groups,the phase ofpregnancy
in the human eye (and vice versa),and directcompari- represented,and variations in self-inspectionroutines
(e.g.,the over-the-shoulder
view) withinthe autogenous
i 8. The rediscovery
ofsix statuettes
Ifthe attributesof PKG-styleimages realisticallycorfromthe Grimaldicaves (Bissonand Bolduc I994) highlights
re- respondwith the point of view employedby theircregionalvariationsin thisview. In threeofthesepieces (specimens
C, D, and F), as well as thepiece in yellowsteatitein theMus6e ators,then the apparentexaggerationand distortionof
certain body parts and the reductionand omission of
des Antiquit6sNationalesat Saint-Germain-en-Laye
since I896,
the verticalgrooveor depressionapparently
separatingthe but- others cannot be assumed the result of eitheraccident
tocks widens at its lower end into a small gougedpit or "cu- or arbitrarychoice. The elegance with which an autopule" at the approximate
positionofthe anus (Bissonand Bolduc genicfeminineviewpointrequiresthese exact attributes
463, 465; DelporteI993a:IoI).
Suchpitscouldsymbolize theanusin a generalway,althoughtheycertainly
do notrepre- stands in dramatic contrast to previous speculations
sentit in anynaturalistic
fashion.Whenviewedfromabove,how- about theirmotivation.Evidence indicativeof one-of-aever,thisdepressionin theGrimaldiyellowsteatitepiecevisually kind accidentsand arbitrary
symboland ritualwill have
into the recessedarea formedby the lowerspine to be soughtelsewherethan in the attributesof the imand thedimpleofthecoccygealorsacraltriangle,
above foreshortened
buttocks.This imageis verysimilarto that ages themselves.At the same time,the representational
notchin thebackoftheWillendorf accuracy of art in later historicalperiods does not prestatuette(see
clude its having had a symbolicfunction.Yet, if PKG-
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
FIG. IO. Autogenous visual informationof buttocksas seen under the arm. Top, photographicsimulation
of modern woman's view; bottom,same view of Willendorfno. i (cast).
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I I.
simulation of modern woman's
in Female Figurines 247
view of buttocks as seen over the shoulder.
i i. Photographicsimulation ofmodern woman's vi'ewof buttocksas seen over the shoulder.
style images are self-portraits
centered on individual
reproductiveevents, the assumption that they represent abstractideas such as the worshipof a prehistoric
mothergoddess must be reexamined.
The realism of formand content seen in PKG-style
images when properlyviewed suggestsa materialisthypothesisforwhy our species firstbegan to make images
of the human figureand what functiontheyoriginally
served. As accurate representationalimages of the female body at differentstages of development,they
storedand preservedinformationabout biological processes unique to the lives of women. No answerto the
absence ofmale sculpturesfromthe PKG horizoncould
be more parsimoniousthan thatwomen firstdeveloped
human image making as accurate recordsof physical
changes they alone experiencedand presumablycontrolled.
The needs of health and hygiene,not to mention
occurredduringthe Upper Paleolithic.Puberty,menses,
coitus, conception,pregnancy,childbirth,and lactation
are regularevents in the female cycle and involve perceptible "time-factored"alterationsin bodily function
and configuration(Marshack iggia:282). Accurate obstetricaland gynecologicalknowledgebenefitswomen
today and can be presumedto have done so duringthe
Upper Paleolithic.New observationsabout the female's
procreativerole, such as improvedtechniques of childbirthor a more reliablemethodforcalculatingthe time
of delivery,would have had the practicalimprovement
of women's lives to advertiseits spread. That women
gained increased control over theirreproductivedestinies duringthe Upper Paleolithicis suggestedby the decline in representations
ofpregnancy(Duhard I993a:88)
seen betweenGravettian(68%) and Magdalenianimages
(36%). It seems highlypossible that the emergenceand
propagationof PKG-styleimages east and west across
Europe occurredbecause theyplayed a didactic role in
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
the conscious masteryofthematerialconditionsunique
to women's reproductivelives.
A femininemotivation and functionfor PKG-style
images raises the logical possibilitythatthe dispersalor
diffusionmechanisms responsiblefortheirspreadlikeif
wise reflectthe perspectiveof women. Furthermore,
PKG-styleimages of the human figurewere createdand
disseminatedby women, it is also possible that PKGstyleand Aurignaciansculpturesofanimals,which employ similar materials and techniques,were createdby
women. The evidence of the autogenous hypothesis
thus raises the possibilitythatwomen led in representational image makingduringthe earlyand middleUpper
Paleolithic and should probablybe creditedwith introducingthis importantculturalactivity.
Finally,the autogenoushypothesisraises questionsof
individual and collective developmentwhose theoretical significanceneeds to be mentioned(see McCoid and
McDermott n.d.). If self was the armatureupon which
the firstimage of humanitywas constructed,when and
how did images based on the appearanceof otherssupplant those based on self?What changesin culturallife
were responsibleforthis fundamentalchange in representationalfocus? Also, since the importantrole once
played by autogenous informationin human cultural
life appears to have been overlooked,modern philosophical and psychologicalconcepts of individual selfawareness and the internalizationof self-imagemay
need revision.19
428 Anlaby Rd., Hull HU3 6QP, England. io
The thesis of this paper struckme as an originaland
intriguingidea, but on reflectionit simplywon't fitthe
bill. It was certainlywise of the authorto restricthimself to the relativelywell-provenancedand dated figurinesfromCentraland EasternEurope(Abramovai995),
thoughhis occasional referencesto figurinesfromwesternEuropeignorethe graveproblemswhich beset some
of them-not merelytheirlack of solid provenanceand
datingbut also the possibilitythat some of them may
well be fake (Bahn I993). (For example,doubt has been
cast on some of the Brassempouyfigurines[Niedhorn
ig. Moderncognitiveself-images
includingthat frommirrors,even
diated visual information,
is important
lutionofthebrain.This observation
once playeda
stylesuggeststhatautogenousvisual information
of two
behavior.The contribution
greaterrole in self-conscious
to our modernself-image
sourcesof visual information
may explainwhynormalwomenas well as thosesuffering
overestieatingdisorderssuch as anorexianervosaconsistently
matethewidthoftheirown bodies(Bozzi I988, Slade and Russell
iggo]; it is probablyimpossible now to be sure of the
authenticityof the "Venus" of the Abri Pataud; and
therehave always been misgivingsabout the Grimaldi
figurines-Bisson and Bolduc [I994] are admirablyopen
and objective about the latter'suncertainties,and convincingevidenceis still awaited.)However,while focusing on the Central and Easternspecimens,McDermott
inexplicablyomits the astonishing"Dancing Venus of
Galgenberg"(Neugebauer-Mareschi988), althoughit is
probablythe oldest known female figurineof its kind
in Europe.The supposedlymale figurinefromAvdeevo,
tentativelymentionedin the paper,is extremelydoubtful: its gender has been interpreted,somewhat tenuously, from its musculature and posture ratherthan
fromsexual characteristics(GvozdoverI995:23).
Turningto the theory:ifI understandMcDermottcorrectly,he is claiming that all of these figurineswere
produced as self-portraits
by female carvers,many of
thempregnant,and all apparentlyignoringthe bodies of
those around them and relyingexclusively-for thousands ofyears-on the distortedviews theycould obtain
bypeeringdown at theirown. There are numerousproblems with this notion. First,it is as sexist to claim that
all these images were made bywomen as it is to assume
that they were all producedby men. I have repeatedly
(e.g., Bahn I986, Bahn and Vertut i988) criticisedthe
traditionalandrocentricview that these figurineswere
all made by men for men, as erotica or suchlike; but
McDermott'squestion-"If men were involvedin creating human images at this time, why are virtuallyno
"-is irrelevant. With tongue in
males represented?
cheek, one mightenvisage archaeologistsof the future
posing the same question about 2oth-centurymagazines, since our glossy publications forboth men and
women are heavily dominated by images of women!
One simplycannot assign a sex to the creatorsof these
Palaeolithicimages on the basis oftheircontent-to assume that they were all women instead of all men
merely swings the pendulum to the other extreme,
whereas it should be in the middle. We do not and
cannot know theirsex. It is all the more preposterous,
forMcDermott to proceed fromthereto the
possibility that Pavlovian-Kostenkian-Gravettian
Aurignaciansculpturesof animals were also all created
by women. This is, of course, theoreticallypossiblebut then,so too is the old androcentricview.
McDermottseems to be tryingto supporthis hypothesis offemaleartistsby the suggestionthatthese images
of (mostlypregnant)women
are accurate self-portraits
seen fromabove. This view confrontsthe same obstacles
as that of Duhard (i995), in which some parts of the
figurinesare physiologicallyrealistic but others are
schematic or stylized.McDermott considersthe whole
whichsomeimage to show "a realismin representation
times approaches scientificexactitude." One wonders,
first,why artistsof so long ago should have been concerned with such precision, which is surely an extremely modern feature. Second, it appears all the
women must have producedthe images while standing
up, so thattheycould keep lookingdown at theirbodies
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in Female Figurines1249
angles, which strikesone as somewhat the notion that an immediatevisual templateis necessaryto sculpt an image. Direct observationof a model
Finally, McDermott's theoryis particularlyuncon- while workingshould not be necessary.ElaborateUpper
vincingin its attemptto explain the abbreviatednature Paleolithicstonetechnologydemonstratesthe cognitive
of the bodies' limbs: "in looking down with arms at capacity to make objects on the basis of remembered
front mentaltemplatesratherthandirectcopying,and sculptthe side, a woman does see only the foreshortened
surfaceof her upper arm"; "when arm and hands are ing fromrememberedformis certainlythe case in anicrossed over the breasts,they presenttheirnarrowest mal depictions. The Vogelherd mammoth and horse
aspect to the eye in an edge-onview"; "the lower body probablydid not stand fortheirportraits.
The second assumptionis that the sculpturesare all
and feet are opticallycorrectforthe point of view emAlthoughpossible, this is fundamentally
ployed in their representation";and "for a pregnant self-portraits.
woman,inspectionofthe upper'half' ofthe bodytermi- speculative. That some of the best-knownspecimens
nates at the navel." This all sounds highlyunlikely.It have attributes appearing to be derived from selfis not difficultat any time to see one's arms and hands inspectioncannot,withoutresortto circularreasoning,
and to know theirtrueshape,size, and proportions.Sim- be turnedinto the generalizationthatall must therefore
Competinghypothesesviewingthe unilarly,when one is sittingdown (and I would assume be self-portraits.
that most figureswere carved by sittingor squatting usual body proportionsas a symbolic code are equally
artists,since the process is long and arduous),one can probable.
McDermott also assumes an unrealisticadherenceto
see one's thighs,calves, and feet extremelywell, and
even the most heavilypregnantwoman must remember a rigid,erect posture to explain the misperceptionsof
what her lower extremitieslooked like, even ifshe, like scale presentin these statuettes.Feet and legs do appear
all the otherartists,was totallyignoringthe bodies of reducedin size relativeto the torsowhen viewed while
everyonearoundher!If,as McDermottclaims, "any im- standing,but their correctproportionsare readilyeviage of self as an independentthree-dimensionalentity dent when sitting.The same is true forforearmsand
must be the mental combinationor integrationofthose hands, which are probably the most frequentlyseen
multiple viewpoints possible for direct visual self- partsof the body and appear foreshortened
only if held
inspection,"thenwhydo these not include theperfectly at the sides. Ifthe autogenoushypothesisis correct,then
commonly observedfeaturessuch as hands should be
easy viewpointsof the body's extremities?
In short,one can at most accept that self-inspection prominentratherthan rare.I findit inconceivablethat
may perhaps have contributedto some figurinesand UpperPaleolithicpeople wereunawareoftheirown attrimay possiblyhave led to stylisticconventionsthatwere butes fromobservationsof theirown bodies in different
adopted and copied formillennia. But I am totallyun- posturesand of the bodies of otherhumans.
The final assumption is that without technological
convincedthat all these figureswere carvedby upright
pregnantwomen who were onlyinterestedin thephoto- assistance the self-viewingperspectiveis the only way
graphicallyaccurate reproductionof certain parts of an Upper Paleolithic person could develop a self-image
theirbodies as seen fromparticularangles. I believe the and that this explains the absence of facial featuresand
self-inspectionidea is an interestingfootnoteto the misshapenheads on manyofthe sculptures.Reflections
studyof femalefigurines,not the revelationof a funda- in water are distortedif the observeris standing,but
mental factorin theirproduction.
bendingover a calm pool to drinkproducesan accurate
image of the face and upperbody.Likewise,ifsculptors
were having to contorttheir bodies to see their own
buttocks,then it is hard to believe that theywould not
have simply crossed theireyes brieflyto see theirown
McGill University,855
SherbrookeSt. W., Montreal,Quebec, Canada H3A
2T7. 5 x 95
Hair, althoughoutside the visual field,is frequently
depicted on the sculptures.This importantcontradicThis paper joins a growinglist of works advocating tion to the autogenoushypothesisis ascribedto tactile
new perspectives for interpretingUpper Paleolithic knowledge.A similarargumentis made forthe enlarged
femalefigurinesand seeingthemas ob- and open vulva common on but not restrictedto Italian
jects made by and forwomen. McDermottis to be com- specimens. This bringsthe critical question into clear
mendedforsuggestingnew ways to view these interest- focus. If tactile knowledge allowed some unobserved
ing and controversial artifacts.At first glance the featuresto be depicted, then why not facial features,
perspectivewould seem to explainmany which, being the most distinctiveindividualcharacterof the departuresof these sculpturesfromnaturalistic istics, should be included in a self-portrait?
attributesand bodyproportions.Unfortunately,
The most reasonable explanationforthis is not the
thishypothesis is based on a series of assumptions that are observationalconstraintsof the self-inspection
perspecunrealistic.It also minimizes the significanceof vari- tive but culturallyconditionedchoice. This is hintedat
abilityin facial,hair,and genitalattributesthatdoes not when differences
are attributedto "regionalvariations."
fitthe hypothesis.
Ifchoice was exercisedin creatingthesesculptures,then
Four assumptionsunderliethis interpretation.
Firstis the presence or absence of featuresmust have cultural
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
meaning. An excellent example of this can be seen in
the patternsof facial morphologyamong the Grimaldi
sculpturesthat are unambiguouslyfemale. The seven
specimenswithovoid heads have no facialfeaturesother
than a hairline.Two crudelyfashionedspecimenshave
compressedheads with incisionsforeyes
and mouthsas well as distincthairlines.The finalpiece,
the "double figurine,"possesses a flattenedtriangular
head with a distinctmouth and probablyother facial
featuresthat were violentlyremovedin antiquity(Bisson and Bolduc I994). Because I believe these specimens
to have been producedovera time span exceeding5,ooo
years (Bisson,Tisnerat,and White I996) this patterning
is best interpretedas reflectingthe changingsymbolic
significanceof the face over time. The autogenoushypothesis,which suggestsunchangingperceptionsof the
body,fails to accommodate this typeof variation.
Although I disagree with the general application of
the hypothesis,it may be useful in interpreting
reasons, I agree with McDerspecimens. For different
motton the likelihoodthatmanyofthesefigurines
made by women and referto reproduction.
cial significance.This not only is a useful counterpoint
to the androcentrictheoriesconcisely outlinedby McDermottbut also challengesthe view that these figures
mightonly symbolisebroadnon-personalconceptssuch
as fertilityor motherhoodand that theywere produced
to conformto standardisedconventions.This will be
an attractivepropositionforthose seeking to engender
archaeology,as well as those such as Knight (I991;
Knight,Power, and Watts I995) who offerbehavioural
hypothesesto account forwhat theyregardas the "symbolic revolution"of the Upper Paleolithic.However,as
McDermottadmits,his hypothesishas not been systematicallytestedand relieson casual referenceto thematerial and the absence or,at least, rarityofmale representations in this period for support.This is a drawback
which bids us be cautious.
Consideringthe autogenous theory,it may be said
thatit seems to workwell withtheWillendorfi figurine
and some otherssuch as Avdeevo 2 and 78, Gagarinoi,
Kostenki i-I figures3 and 4, and the yellow steatiteex-
I69, I74,
I63, and ioo, respectively),whereas in otherexamples
self-inspectionmightbe said to have had an influence,
althoughthe model does not fitclosely. Avdeevo 77-I
and 77-2 and Kostenkii-I and i and 2 (DelporteI993:
I73, i62) show natural,observedprofiles,as do the torsos from Petrkovice and Eliseevitch (pp. I48, I83).
Equally, althoughself-viewingmay contributeto characteristicssuch as theprotuberant
buttocksofthe "punchinello" fromGrimaldi or the Savignanopiece or the
GrimaldifigSeekingthe significanceof femalefigurinesin the mid- flatteningin pieces such as the perforated
dle Upper Palaeolithic is a quixotic adventurein which ure or the tall figuresincludingAvdeevo i and Gagarino
it does
McDermottproveshimselfto be a worthy,indeed chiv- 3 (pp. I03, I09, I02, I69, and I77, respectively),
alrous knight.Drawing a veil over sex and liftingthe not satisfactorilyaccount for all their qualities. This
burdenof fertilityor motherhoodsymbolism,he gives must also apply to Lespugue and Dolni Vestonice i (pp.
Stone Age women control over their own bodies and 35, I38); the latter must surely have been observed
epitomises their realityin the natural self-representa- face-on.Similarly,it does not suit the possible birthing
tion of theirsoftcurvesand fullfigures.Is he dreaming, figuresfromSireuil and Tursac (Duhard I993c) and possibly Kostenki I3 (Delporte I993:i68). Further,McDeror is his quest successful?
Despite attemptsto subordinatePKG-stylefigurines mottignoresthe moreenigmaticfemalerepresentations
to taxonomicformulae(GvozdoverI989, Leroi-Gourhan suchas Dolni VestoniceI2-I4 and Predmosti
whichclearlydo not fitthe theory.It is also
I968a) or to suggestthat theirimportancelies in a par- I49-50),
ticular aspect such as the depiction of their genitalia evident although not necessarily problematicfor the
(Marshack iggib), it is evident to anyone who looks theory that, in addition to hairstyles,the shoulder
at these representationsthat each one is unique. The straps,back and waistbands,and apronson some figures
possibilitythat each one mightalso representan actual are drawnas observedby anotherperson;otherwisethey
individualhas been encouragedby researchsuch as that would appearas short,disconnectedstrips.In short,the
of Duhard (I99oa, I993b), which providesanalogues for autogenoustheorymightbe said to correspondto a genthe physicalformsdepictedbut evidentlyregardsthem eral idea of what PKG-stylefigurineslook like, but this
as depictionsmade by others (e.g.,Duhard I993c:290). perceptionis in itselfremarkablybiased by the greater
McDermottgoes one step fartherand suggeststhatthey familiarityof the Willendorfi figureand belies the real
This echoes the alreadywidely diversitypresent.
are self-representations.
In an attemptto strengthen
his case, McDermottuses
held view that these figuresare not only about women
(Cook n.d., Delporte I993, Duhard I993b, Marshack the absence or rarity of male figuresin Pavlovianiggib, Rice I98I) and extends it to suggestthat they Kostenkian-Gravettiancontexts to emphasise a gynomayhave been made bywomen forwomen because self- centricinterpretation.His assessment of the evidence
representationwould imply that any intendedsymbol- would probablymeet with generalagreement,although
ism was inherentin or particularto the woman de- it is surprisingto find the Aurignacianstatuettefrom
picted, perhaps being her totem, and that the act of Hohlenstein-Stadelincludedin theargument.This piece
reproducingherselfin figurineformmay also have spe- is outside the period under considerationboth chrono-
Departmentof Prehistoricand Romano-British
Franks' House, 3 8-46 Orsman Rd., London NI 5QJ,
England. 2o x 95
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in Female Figurines|
appearances." In principle,shadows, full-or part-body
imprintsin soil, sand, or snow, and the "trace" of the
body's shape and dimensions carriedin the formsof
clothingcould all providesuch information.Transcribingit would have resultedin a two-or three-dimensional
image somewhat different
froma purelyself-regarding
one. But the figurinesare clearly not wholly selfregardinganyway; they include formalrecognitionof
bodyparts (such as the top and back of the head or the
lower portionof a "swollen" belly or abdomen) that it
is impossible to see in this way. They are certainlynot
sculptural transcriptionsof any single self-regarding
view; though McDermott says little about how the
"multiple" views were "combined," the principle of
paratactic coherence was not itself self-regarding.
definition it requires adopting an outside vantage
point-not necessarilyequivalentto anyreal standpoint
in the world-from which an externalobject is viewed;
forthe overall view presentedby the whole figurineto
be self-regarding,
the makerwould have to be somewhat
floatingoutside and all around herself.)In making a
in otherwords, the subjectivemust be
objectified.Clearlyany objectificationof the selfcan be
obedientto the demands of others.Thus it remainsan
open question whetherand how self-inspectiondatalet alone subjectiverealityin relationto social expectation-were coordinatedwith data fromothersourcesin
the makingof the figurines.
2. McDermottcomes perilouslyclose to indulgingone
of the hoariest fallacies of art criticism-namely, the
idea thatimage makerssimplycopythe image projected
on the retina of their (own) eyes, the question being
what that image is (e.g.,an image of one's own body,of
otherobjects,etc.). It is possible to producea reasonably
convincingtwo-dimensionalsimulacrumor illusion of
one's own retinalimage; reproducedon a contactlens,
it could exactly "mask" the actual view, in somewhat
the way McDermott suggeststhe figurinescould have
been held to "mask" the real body.But this simulacrum
is not the autogenous retinal image itself.It can only
be a mediated copy-transcription
techniques of "fabrication"that McDermott tells us
nothing about. No doubt the fabricatormight intend
that the copy-imagetranscribea self-vieweduniverse;
to that extent,we can say it is autogenous. But does
not even need the retinal image to make the picture?
Moreover,nothingpreventsan autogenous view from
being produced throughtactile examination,mensuration,induction,and so on-just as a perspectivepicture
can be constructed artificially(rather than through
direct transcriptionof the retinal image of binocular
stereoscopicvision). McDermott providesno criterion
for distinguishingvisual fictions of a self-inspection
view-it may or may not have been conductedby the
"self" on itself-from the retinal images generatedin
self-viewingas theywere supposedlycopied (but how?)
by that veryviewer. Althoughthe two types of image
could be morphologicallyindiscernible,only the latter
is necessarilyan image made by the "self" of its own
body.It is fascinatingto suppose thatPaleolithicartarti-
logicallyand stylistically.Whetherthe heavilyrestored
head is that of a lion or a lioness is equivocal, and the
same may be said of the sexual characteristics.The
stance and muscularityof the figurecertainlydistinguishit fromPKG-stylefemalefiguresbut comparewell
with otherAurignacianfiguressuch as the Galgenberg
"dancer" or themuch smallerivorybas-relieffromGeissenklosterle.However,it mightalso be noted thatthere
are some similaritiesbetween Hohlenstein-Stadeland
theBrnofigurewhich McDermotttentativelyacceptsas
male in the formof the genitalareas. The Laussel figure
is probably best regardedas sexually ambiguous, althoughforan adolescent female it would have Amazonian proportions.As for the supposed Pavlovian head
to hereby the reference"Marshack (I988)," recordsmade at the BritishMuseum when this object was
offeredforsale in I948 show that evidence was found
indicatingthat it was made recentlyon ancient ivory.
These details aside, the absence ofmale representations
does not preclude male interestin, or manufactureof,
femalefiguresand should not be taken as supportfora
uniquely female originand use. It mightalso be useful
to considerwhethersome of these figuresincorporate
both male and female sexual references(see, forexample, the profilesof Willendorf2, Dolni Vestonice2, and
Khotylevoi and the mammothmetapodialfiguresfrom
I43, I85,
Overall,it may be said that,combinedwith Duhard's
approachto realism(I 993b, c, I995), awarenessofthe
view offersa valuable way of looking at
and appreciatingthe figures.However,it cannotbe used
to engenderthe interpretationof these objects, as it
lacks any appreciationoftheircontext,associations,and
distribution(Cook n.d.). As it stands,the theoryneeds
more testingand supportto avoid being cast as an academic outcome of 2oth-century
social evolutionjust as
predictableas Efimenko'sfindingfemale ancestor images at the heart of a matrilinealclan organizationin
keepingwith the theoriesof Morganand Engels.
DepartmentofArt History,NorthwesternUniversity,
Evanston,Ill. 60208, U.S.A. 9 x 95
This innovative paper offersan intriguinghypothesis
about one source of the iconographyof Paleolithic "female figurines."For the purposeofthis comment,I will
accept McDermott's remarksabout the chronology,distribution,and styleofthe figurines.He suggeststhatthe
formof the figureswas derivedfrom
and self-regarding
visual information.
visual parallel between some such views and some aspects of the formof the figurinesis quite strong,but
McDermott's explanation-that the figurines"constitute a formof self-portrait"-isnot the only possible
i. It is not true that "beforerepresentationalart or
mirrors"one could inspect only his or her own bodyor
that of anotherperson for "informationabout human
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
ficiallyconstructedfictively"autogenous" views-just
as Renaissance painters artificiallyconstructedfictive
perspectives-but this is a point quite different
Key,here,is the factthat once we introducea necessarystage of copy-transcription
into the fabricationprocess, we also partlydetach the image fromits supposedly original autogenous "source." It now becomes a
pictorialconventionavailable forreproduction,
and manipulationbothby the "self" and bymanyother
users. The corpus of figurinesis nothingif not conventionalized. Justas thereare many ways in which "frontal" and "profile"depictionsofpartsofthe human body
can be combinedbut Egyptianartreproducesone typical
(seeDavis i989:io-29),
SO therearemany
ways in which "multiple" self-regarding
views could be
combined but Paleolithic figurines,if McDermott's
claims about regularityare valid, imposed one typical
3. I am sceptical, it follows,that autogenousimages
were necessarilymade by the verypersonswho experienced just those kinds of retinalimages-that the figurineswere images made by women of theirown bodies.
Although the idea is attractive,it takes too little account of the mediated and intersubjectiveprocesses of
representationand fabrication.At the moment,the visual evidence seems to me to supporta weaker thesis:
accordingto a general(but unknown)paratacticprinciple, someone combined self-inspection-derived
of some partsofwomen's bodies-or imitationsofsuch
images-with other informationto make a threedimensional picture that is a convincingbut strongly
conventionalized visual fiction of (or for) Paleolithic
women's self-imageof theirown bodies,whateversuch
self-images,both retinaland psychological,mightactually have been (presumablytheywerequite variable).As
that phrasingsuggests,I would emphasize the mediated-ideological, fantasmic (imaginary),symbolicnatureof the imagery.McDermott rushes to inferthat
the images bespeak Paleolithic female image makers'
knowledgeofand controlovertheirown bodies,particularly reproductiveprocesses. I will not go so far as to
say that this is simplypresent-daypolitics,progressive
though it may be, but I see nothingin McDermott's
account that preventsus fromsupposingthat the figurineswere made by men to providedefinitiveimagesfor
women about how theirbodies-their "selves," if such
a distinctivelymodernnotion has any place in this discussion at all-appear and oughtto appearto them,even
fromtheirown "point of view." This interpretation
quite as consistentwith contemporary
of subjectivityas McDermott's.
4. To "represent"the "self" is to treatit as an object.
Whathas its originin autogenousexperience,or egocentricity,modulates into the experienceof the alienated
social person or "subject." Perhaps romantically,McDermott sees the female figurinesas expressionsof an
unalienatedworld-a worldbeforethe "mirrorstage" in
which the subject is quadratedby verifying
its own be-
ing in the perceptionand representationof it by other
people (Lacan I977). I am sympatheticto the attempt
analyticallyto discover the ego's representationsof itself as it is grounded in its own actual lifeworlddistinguishing
and "subjectivity"
should be one of the primeinterestsof currentanthropologyand arthistory(see Damisch I994, Davis I994)but ifthereis such a representation
it cannotbe conventional. Although McDermott does not fullydeal with
the relation of ego and subject or of self and other,in
his suggestiveanalysis he does directlyraise the question forstudentsof prehistoricculture.
rue d'Hennemont,78IOOSt. Germain-en-Laye,
France. 5 x 95
The studyof Paleolithic mobiliaryart has two aspects:
(i) objectively,the analysis of objects,with a broad and
increasinglyprecise description,and of the valuable indications of theirdistributionand associations,and (2)
subjectively, hypotheses about the morphology,the
meaning, and the motivation of those objects. For female figurinesthese hypothesesare numerousand varied (Delporte I993). McDermott examines figurines
fromthe Gravettiangroup,omittingthe Mal'ta and Buret' Siberian statuettes without explanation but certainlybecause theirfigurativescheme, like that of the
Magdalenian,differsfromthat of the EuropeanPavlovian-Kostenkian-Gravettian
group.One major characteristic of many of the femalefigurinesof the lattergroup
is a deformationof the body involvinga hypertrophy
thepelvis regionand an atrophyofthe extremities(head,
legs, and feet). Leroi-Gourhan(I965, I97I) considered
this deformationsuggestiveof a lozenge-shapedform,
de factoand not intentionallyconstructed.In his opinion and thatofmanyotherresearchersincludingmyself,
this processtends to place symbolicvalue on the essential partsofthe femalebody.Duhard (I993),forhis part,
claims that thereis no deformation:in his professional
career as a gynecologist he has met contemporary
women showingthe same so-called deformations.
McDermott's theoryis original: that the figurines'
morphologydoes not arisefromsymbolismor intentbut
is optical, a translationof the image seen by the artist
when she looks down at herselfor when she turnsher
head at a go' angle. The differences
in the figures'proportions are to be linked to the age of the artistand
thereforeto the sexual stages of her life. This idea has
alreadybeen expressedbyDuhard (I993) and Rice (I981).
This theoryprovidesan explanationforbodydisproportions: the reductionofthe head to a button,the absence
offacialfeatures,the reliefofthe breasts,abdomen,and
buttocks,and the atrophyof the legs (Luquet's intellectual realism). Why,then, are the arms, being so close
to the head, absent or atrophied?The interestof this
theory-which, without condemning it, I do not
share-is that it implies that the female and perhaps
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in Female Figurines1253
also the animal statuettes were sculpted by women, writtenby insidious sociobiological premisesand remwhich is conceivablebut goes againstsome hypotheses, nants of androcentricvoyeurismof which even he is
(apparently)unaware. I limit my discussion to the vesespecially eroticones such as Guthrie's(I984).
Without formally opposing McDermott's ideas, I tiges of androcentricvoyeurismI find most troubling
and commentbrieflyon related issues of typologyand
would like to make severalpoints:
i. The figurines from the Pavlovian-Kostenkian- classificationthat are, in my opinion,leftunresolved.
Androcentricprojectionsstill embeddedin thisautogGravettiangroupare not the oldest.In the CentralEuropean Aurignacian,at Hohlenstein,at Geissenklosterle enous account take two forms.The firstis McDermott's
(mentionedby McDermott),and, above all, at Galgen- continualreferenceto the "normal-sized"and "average"
berg (Neugebauer-MareschI989), there are statuettes woman. What,praytell, is a normal-sizedwoman, and
that do not follow the rules of construction,symbolic whose average is the appropriateone forthis study: a
healthy,well-fed,middle-class white woman of Euroor optical, of this group.
2. The Brno male figurinecan be dated on the basis pean descent? a minority,inner-city,
ofthe pit's furnishings;we will be able to attributeit to teenagerwho has experiencedone or more abortionsor
a group-maybe to the PKG-only afternondestructive miscarriages?a pregnantwoman fromSamoa? fromKeradiochemicalanalyseshave been conductedon it. Nev- nya?fromJapan?fromthe Basque country?How are we
with a
ertheless,it is possible, thoughexceptional,that there to comparean "average26-year-oldmother-to-be
are male figurines in the Pavlovian-Kostenkian- 34C bust" with (similar?)femaleslivingextremelydifGravettiangroup,forexample, the belted figurinefrom ferentlives ca. 26,ooo years B.P. in what is now the
Czech Republic,Slovakia, easternor westernRussia, or
Brassempouy,accordingto Duhard.
3. McDermott is imprecise in mentioningconnec- southwesternFrance?On methodologicalgroundsI take
tions between the Pavlovian-Kostenkian-Gravettianexceptionto McDermott's strategyofaveragingout emgroup and the Magdalenian. We have to insist on the piricalvariationand question the wisdom ofthis overly
factthatthe engravingsofLa Marche,the styleofwhich reductivebiological basis fora woman's self-perception,
is so distinctive,are only Magdalenian (Pales and de past or present.
Specifically,I am troubledby the way this account
4. In a friendlymanner,I would suggestto McDer- separatesbrutevisual perceptionfromthe culturallens
writers,thathe throughwhich all seeing is accomplished.Much ofthis
mott,along with otherEnglish-speaking
take a look at French-speakingliterature,forexample, theoryis premisedon an art-history
argumentthat soLeroi-Gourhan'swork, the role of which is misunder- cioeconomic and culturalcontextsmotivateand strucattention.
stood or, it seems to me, given insufficient
tureformalvocabularies,or what in archaeologyare still
called stylisticconventions.But behindthatpositionis
a corollary:thatall perceptionand representation
is culDOBRES
turallymediated. This does not mean that each person
Archaeological Research Facility,Departmentof
"sees" the physicalworld differently.
But we do experiAnthropology,Universityof California,Berkeley,
ence it, conceptualize it, then proceed to represent
it, depict it, and give meaning and value to it on the
Calif.94720-3710, U.S.A. 26 IX 95
basis of the various personal experiencesthat serve as
No betterargumentcould be made forthe polysemic our background interpretiveframeworks (Anderson
nature of prehistoricvisual imagerythan to inventory I979:I40-42;
ForgeI970; Lewis-Williams
the number of interpretationsproposed over the past I988; WashburnI994:i02;
amongmany such argucenturyforthe meaningand/orfunctionofthe archaeo- ments).What this means froma combinedfeministartlogical materials dubiously called Venus figurines.In historyand psychologicalperspectiveis thata woman's
this provocativeessay McDermott adds anothernovel representationof her body is never simplyan objective
list-a list clearlyresponsive recordingof what she physically sees when looking
idea to that ever-growing
to the historicallyspecificsocial, economic, and politi- down. Thus I take strongexception to the claim that
cal circumstanceswithin which prehistorianshave de- "there is no reason to suspect that informationfrom
velopedtheirideas. The mostprevalentparadigmsstruc- direct self-inspectionhas changed since the Upper
turingthese interpretationscan be groupedunder the Palaeolithic."
What McDermott's camera recordsis not all that a
headings of androcentricvoyeurism,sociobiology,and
feminism(Dobres i992a, n.d.),and I findin thisaccount woman (or a man looking down at himself,I suspect)
"sees." The camera cannot approximatethe interpreted
aspects of all three.
The feministaspects of McDermott's work can be sense ofcorporealselfand body,inseparablyintertwined
found in the way he highlightsfemale self-expression as they are, that necessarilyprecedes any furtherconofknowledge ventional renderingof it in three-dimensionalmedia
and the conscious mastering(mistressing?)
about health and related gynecologicalissues as direct such as sandstone,steatite,and clay. The camera does
movitationsfor these depictions. While I applaud his not interpretphysical realityin the way that gendered
attemptto introducesome degreeof conscious agency humans do. McDermott privilegesthe physical distorinto the question, this attemptis nonetheless under- tions that come with looking over one's shoulder at
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Volume37, Number2, AprilI996
one's buttocksor over a protrudingbelly,but he appar- a traditionalWestern "art" frameworkin which endently does not recognize that the "average" woman product-for-viewing
is the typicalgoal,we mightexplore
"sees" much more and much less than this (Brooke- thepossibilitythatit was in the act ofcreatingtheimagRose I986, de LauretisI987, PointonI990, Pollock ery that meaning and value was signifiedand that the
I987). Moreover,McDermott's beliefthat an "objective act of depiction and re-creationof self in anothermephysical perception"and "optically correctviewpoint" dium was more the intentthan what the finalformreabout the human body based on "direct visual self- flectedabout obstetricaland gynecologicalknowledge.
inspection" is possible outside this cultural lens fails Withoutmore concernfortechnologicalissues, and not
to take into considerationthat even so-called objective forthe sake of description(as McDermott does briefly
scientific views of the (female) human body have considerthem)but as potentialclues as to the physical
changedradicallyover the past threecenturiesor more and social contexts in which their prehistoricmeaning(s) were also produced, we will continue to have
(Foucault I975, Laqueur I990).
My second concernrelates to the generalissue of ty- novel interpretationsthat begin and end with palmpologyand how to cope withempiricaldiversityencoun- sized naked femalesfrozenin stone.The time has come
teredin the archaeologicalrecord,but on this pointI do to considerthe multiple layeringof possible meanings,
not think McDermott and I will ever agree. Consider- motivations,and materialconditionsinforming
theproable attentionis devotedto only two facetsof material ductionand use ofthese artifactsratherthanpromotea
variabilitywithin this corpus of imagery,and in both single best explanationno matterhow original.
cases the purposeis to play down theirrelevanceto the
"clear central tendency" toward lozenge-shaped females. Of course that is what this imagerydepicts,but JEAN-PIERRE DUHARD
that does not mean that associated attributessuch as i8 rue de l'Estagnas, F-64200 Biarritz,France. 7 Iv 95
raw material,its workability,intrasitespatial distribution ofrecoveredspecimens,archaeologicalcontext,and McDermott assumes that the absence of completeanatechnical details of fabrication,much less whetherthe tomical realism in the sculpturesin question is to be
imageryis portable and "palm-sized" or fixed in the explainedbytheirmode ofconception-made in the imlandscape,should be cataloguedbut consideredanalyti- age of an individual woman by herself after selfcally inconsequential. It is clear that what counts as examination.This brand-newtheoryshould not be revariability,homogeneity,and heterogeneity
in archaeo- jected a priori;afterall, any innovativeidea can move
logical data is in the eye ofthe beholder.Surelyhow one us fartheralong on the path ofknowledge,and we must
goes about lumping or splittingartifactsinto arbitrary congratulateMcDermottforhis imaginativeness.It will
analytical categories depends on what the researcher not,however,come as a surpriseto anyonewho knows
wants to understand.But if the subject at hand were my work on the subject (e.g.,Duhard I989a, iggoa, b,
lithicstherewould surelybe dozens of(overlapping)catg99ib) that I do not quite share his point of view.
egories into which the data would be variously orgaAlthough the overwhelmingmajorityof representanized-each highlightingpotentiallymeaningfulattri- tionsofhumansin thisperiodis female,males arenotabbutes ofone sortor another-and fewwould be satisfied sent. There are at least two fromFrance-the "Priape"
with a studyof "blades." While McDermott prefersto fromLaussel (Musee d'Aquitaine) and the "figurinea la
focus on the general category"female," I believe that ceinture"fromBrassempouy(Musee desAntiquitesNaticontextual and empirical attributespertainingto raw onales),which has a reliefofthe scrotumand penis that
material, stylistic details, archaeological provenience is carefullysculptedand polished (see Duhard I987a).
and relatedmaterialpatterning,
Accordingto McDermott'shypothesis,when the indiqualityofrendering,
completenessofsubjectmattermustbe madepart ofthe vidual looks at herselffull-length,
assumingthatthe eye
analysis and not merelylisted as supplementalregional acts like a wide-anglelens therewill be distortionofthe
conventions.In this regardI am not at all clear why a bodyimage,with the chest longerthanthe lowerlimbs,
3,ooo-km"culturalcorridor"is appropriateforbounding extended breasts,and reduced extremities.Depending
this study ratherthan an 8,ooo-km "female statuette on the volume of the belly, the feet,lower limbs, and
zone," except that the inclusion of the Siberian speci- genital regionmay even disappear.But the human eye
mens would make it harderforMcDermottto discount does not act like a wide-anglelens; its focal corresponds
to a so-mm lens, producingno distortion.Besides, the
empiricalvariabilityin favorof a centraltendency.
In the end what bothersme most about this studyis image is seen not by the eye but by the occipital centers
This researchdid not start of the brain,since everyimage is interpreted.Our anaits blatantmorphocentrism.
with a general processual question about the relation- tomical knowledge of the body comes both fromselfship betweenvisual imageryand behavioralprocessesin examinationand fromthe examinationofothersin such
prehistory,with a concern for archaeological context, a way as to verifyour identityin appearancewhile noticThe women supposed to be represented
or with fundamentaltechnologicalconcerns.Instead it ing differences.
startedwith a novel observationabout morphological afterself-examinationwould not have missed the anaof theirbodies, and if theyhad
parallels,then proceededto rallytheoryto supportand tomical nonconformity
explain it. Ratherthan thinkingof these images within theircompanionswould have pointedit out.
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in Female Figurines1255
This theorydoes not account forthe facts observed. JAMES ELKINS
Reductionofthe feetmay be explainedby theirdistance DepartmentofArt History,Theory,and Criticism,
fromthe eye, but it is easy to bringthem closer. As for School of the Art Instituteof Chicago, 37 S. Wabash,
theirabsence,it is not explainedat all; it is obvious that Chicago, Ill. 60603, U.S.A. i8 x 95
we have them-we can see them,we use them,we touch
them.Regardingthe hands,the theorydoes not account There is a conceptual difficultyat the root of McDerforeithertheirabsence,theirreduction(evenwhen they mott's paper that preventsme fromengagingit as an
the"manchede archaeologicalor anthropologicalessay, and that is the
reston thebreasts[Lespugue,Willendorf,
If "autogenous selfpoignard"]),or theirexaggerationwhen theyreston the definitionof self-representation.
belly(Parabita).The hippedattitudethatI have described representation"is not a redundancy,then I take it to
that attemptsto do justice to
forthe torsofromBrassempouycan onlybe explainedin mean self-representation
to the the viewer's perspective,as opposed to self-representatermsofexaminationbysomeone else orreference
posture of another individual. A face like that of the tion thatpresentsthe vieweras he or she may appearto
"dame a la capuche" fromBrassempouy(Musee des Anti- someone else, or in normativeproportions.
At the veryoutset thereare problems.The conceptof
quites Nationales),which is a trueportraitin spiteofthe
missingmouthand the roughshape ofan eye,could only perspectivein this sense derivesfromPlato's distinction
have been sculptedby anotherpersonunless theindivid- betweensculpturesmade accordingto the actual proporual could look at herselfin a watermirror-and ifthelat- tions of a figure (eikastike) and those "semblances"
terall the otherheads could and should have been simi- (phantastike)thatare "opticallycorrected"so thattheir
larlydetailed,which is not the case. The realismofsome proportionsappear correctfroma certainpoint of view
vulvae, incorporated(Monpazier,Grimaldi) or isolated (Munman I985; Trimpi I983: I I3). Hence the idea ofan
(fromthe Aurignacianto the Magdalenian),is not ex- intentionallyuncorrectedrepresentationis decisively
plainedbythistheory.It is impossibleforanywoman,un- Western,and Plato's interestin distortedand undisless she is a contortionistor has the help of a mirror,to tortedsculpturesis an integralpartoftheWesterndevelsee her whole vulva. Some vulvae are detailedin such a opmentof the conceptofdrawnand sculptedlinearperway (labiaminora,clitoris,vestibule)thattheycouldonly spective (Elkins I994). In this context it is especially
have been viewed by someone else.
importantthat the concern with perspectivaldistorhas been so perfromMcDermott's tions,recessions,and proportionalities
My view is completelydifferent
excepton one point: completeanatomicalrealismis ab- vasive in Westernthoughtthat it took an iconoclastic
sent duringthe Gravettian(and the UpperPaleolithicin thinkerlike Maurice Merleau-Pontyto make a congeneral),but thereis realismofdetail with regardto the certed effortto overturnthe demands of perspective.
regionsof the femalebody involvedin the reproductive Merleau-Ponty'sphenomenologyof the body stresses
functions.In my view, if the medio-corporalregionis the unproportional,unoptical possibilities that follow
obviously privileged,it is for one simple reason: that on a more somatic, less visual awareness of the body:
this is the location of the femalesexual characteristics, forexample, a foot or a hand mightbe depictedoverly
characteristicsthatallow recognitionas a human being, largebecause it is experiencedthatway (Merleau-Ponty
workin theWest
specificationofgender,and readingofphysiologicalhis- I962, I99 3). But virtuallyall figurative
tory(youngor adult,gravidor not, nursingor not, etc.). continuesto play with perspectivaloptions,even when
The depictionsof bodies are exclusivelysculpted,this it engagesin a critiqueofperspective'scanonical forms.
being the only way to representvolumes, and in the
So it is naturalforpost-RenaissanceWesternersto be
bodypartsrepresented,havingexaminedalmost I5,000
interestedin these issues: but even if we allow that a
women of all ages throughout25 yearsof gynecological non-Western,prehistoricsculptorcould become interpractice, I can recognize shapes identical to living ested in them,then it would still be necessaryto think
women's, showingthe same diversityin the appearance about the entirefieldof autogenous self-representation
oftheirbreasts,abdomens,hips,or buttocksand adipos- as it appears to us, so that we mightbecome sensitive
ity distribution(see, e.g., Duhard I994). In my opinion to thepossibilitieswe projectonto the material.It is not
the reductionor omission of distal partsis a matterof at all irrelevantthatan interestin autogenousself-reprethe graphicsettingof the work; unnecessaryto the rec- sentationcharacterizescontemporary
ognitionofhumanness,gender,or physiologicalstate of than modern,earlymodern,medieval, classical, or any
the individual,they are usually neglected.In the same otherworld art. Is it suspicious that our contemporary
spirit,I have pointed to the importanceof the orienta- culture,the one most involved in self-representation,
tion of the upper limbs, rarely directed towards the would be the one to discoverit in othercultures?
breastsbut quite oftentowardsthe abdomen,focusing
In that context I offerthree alternativesto McDerattentionon its reproductivefunction(Duhard I989b).
mott's insistence on the idea that any autogenousselfAlthoughI do not share Leroi-Gourhan'sideas about representationwill involve enlargedtorsos and dwinthe geometricstructureof the figures(Duhard I995), I dlinglimbs.
agree with him that figurativeart is directlylinked to
First:a representationmightmake use of reflections
language and much closer to writing,in a broad sense, in water (not a difficultfeat,as anyoneknows who has
than to art (Leroi-GourhanI964-65).
triedthe experiment)in orderto producean autogenous
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FIG. 2.
Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
i. JoanSemmel, Hand Down, I977, watercolor.Courtesythe artist.
JoanSemmel, Sun Light,1978. Oil on canvas. Courtesythe artist;photo by JohnKasparian.
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3. ErnstMach, The Field of Vision (Mach
fig. I).
in Female Figurines1257
more in accord with actual proporself-representation
tions of the body.In I979 the artistElsa Dorfmanmade
such a representationusing modernmeans, thinkingof
herselfas the Venus ofWillendorf;the photo shows her
nude, holding the camera up to her eye, reflectedin a
hotel mirror.Second: a representationcan be explicitly
fromthe point ofview of the artistand not involve any
diminutionof the limbs. Beginningin the early I970S
the artistJoanSemmel has made such representations
(figs.i and 2), includinga numberbased on the idea of
the Venus ofWillendorf.(Othersdo involve diminution
ofthe limbs: it is a choice she makes, and she considers
herselffreeto choose eithernormativeor distortedrepresentations-eithereikastikeorphantasike.)It is interestingthatbothworkspreserveproportionsbut cropthe
body,an optionthatis also available in sculpture.Third:
a self-representation
mightseek to be a littlemore literal about the kinds of distortionMcDermottdescribes
by includingthe orbitof the eye, cheek,and nose as the
largestelements in the visual field-as ErnstMach did
in severalfamousrepresentations
(fig.3). Mach's picture
is the literal embodimentof what McDermott has in
mind, and it follows his own stricturesmuch more
closely than the prehistoricfigurinesdo. If "autogenous
were at work in the Upper Paleoself-representation"
lithic, one might expect to find examples more selfconsistentlyperspectival.And consider,as an envoi,representationsthat involve dwindlinglimbs but are not
at all, forexample,some late drawself-representations
ings by the Renaissance painterJacopoPontormo(fig.
FIG.4 .Jacopo Pontormo,StudyJorThe Resurrection,
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
What is autogenous self-representation?
No one
knows,because no one has studiedit: but certainlyany
study,whetheror not it concernsprehistoricmaterials,
should begin with a considerationof the possibilities,
which are virtuallyall Western,virtuallyall modern,
and withoutexceptionpostclassical.
longsto the same individual,would have allowed a more
natural representation.The argumentspresentedindicate little familiaritywith ivoryas a raw materialand
the problemsof preservation.Even if fossil tusks were
used, the appendageis intentional.It may mean many
thingsbesides a penis, I agree,but thereis only minor
weatheringof the interiorof the pulpa on the obliquely
cut lamellae.
The male figureof Brno 2 is questionable because of
InstitutfuirUr- und Friihgeschichte,Universitat
preservationproblems.The head is separate,and the one
Tiibingen,D-7207o Tiibingen, X 95
preservedarm still shows the concavityof the ivorylamella, indicating that it was detached from a larger
McDermottpresentsanothernew view on an old topic, piece; it does not fitthe supposed body. If fossil ivory
the Upper Paleolithic female figurines.Women are as- was used, such fissureplanes mighthave appeareddursumed to have this view looking down, and the statu- ing the carvingprocess. The bodyverymuch resembles
ettes are interpretedas autogenousself-representations.the pestles made fromtusk segmentsknownin the PavTwo argumentsagainstthisview are therepresentations lovian-Kostenkian-Gravettian;
if it was a figurine,it
of the arms and the back. The back is treatedin some must have been an articulatedone.
I dislike chronologicalarguments,but mobiliaryart
detail, especially the buttocks,which cannot be seen
like that by oneself.The arms are treatedlike the legs, is ratherwell dated as comparedwith parietalart.Ifthe
beingtruncatedor even absent,whereasseen fromabove PKG-stylefemalesareplaced in theirchronologicalpositheyshould be enlargedor ofnormalsize. The bas-relief tion,theycannot be used to discuss the originbut only
forexample, the evolutionoffigurativeart.Mobiliaryartin the early
has more a symmetricalarrangementof the upper and UpperPaleolithicstartswithnormal-sizedfigurines,
anlower halves of the body and the limbs, as has been imal-often male bison and mammoth-and human
pointed out by many previous writers,because of its representationsthat are oftenabbreviatedand only in a
laterstageconcentrateson the famousPKG-stylefemale
Chronologyis handled ratherloosely here. The PKG- figurines.These earlier statuettesof animals and hustylefigurinesare sometimes called the earliestprehis- mans were necessarilyseen by others.If McDermott's
sometimesattributedto the mid- conclusions on the self-representations
of women hold,
dle Upper Paleolithic. They are not the oldest such then it is only for the middle Upper Paleolithic. The
evident variety in their form is not covered by his
figurines;in the Aurignaciantheyrangebetween36,ooo
and 30,000 B.P., and similardates exist forRussian ani- scheme.
mal representations.
The fewAurignaciananthropomorphic statuettes (Geissenkl6sterle,Hohlenstein, Stratzing) display "normal" proportions,with long limbs and JAN JELINEK
indications of hands and feet but distinctivefeatures AnthroposInstitute,Moravske muzeum, Zelnyrtrh7,
such as animal attributesor nonstatic attitudes.The 65937 Brno,Czech Republic. 28 IX 95
surfacesare not preserved,so the sex is difficultif not
impossible to determine. The figurinefrom Krems- The idea that Pavlovian-Kostjenkian-Gravettian
Stratzingis assumed to be femalebut is not considered figurinesare producedin accordancewith observations
by McDermott; its proportions,with long extremities, by females themselves is certainlyprovocative.Some
criticalobservationsmay be made.
and its liftedarm do not fithis PKG scheme.
Insteadof a selection,a representative
The discussionofmale figurinesis an attemptto chalsample or even
lenge the apparentlycontradictoryevidence to the as- the whole corpus of known PKG-stylefigurinesshould
sumed importantrole of females, and thereforethe be considered.Some of these (the majority)have no faAurignacian Hohlenstein-Stadel zooanthropomorphic cial featuresat all, some have at least initial facial feafigurine(length30 cm) is supposedto be female.Schmid tures (e.g., Brassempouy,the male figurinefromBrno,
(I989), for example, considers the beginning of the KostjenkiI983, Avdjejevo I977), and some have unrealthe istic facial features(Dolni Vestonice,the Predmostifethroat,the foldunder the navel, a breastfragment,
pubic triangle,and the missing mane as female attri- male figureengravedon mammoth tusk). As for the
butes. The throatincision is, however,too vague to be arms,theyoftencontradictthe enlargedor emphasized
consideredthe start of a female breast; the fold may breasts, being significantlyreduced (Willendorf,Lesoccur in men, and the missingmane is a featurefound pugue, Gagarini2 and 4, Predmostf);this cannot be the
in the recentlydiscoveredChauvet parietalpaintingsof resultof self-inspection.Some figurinesdo not have exlions(ChauvetI995:97; Clotteset al. I995). The pubic aggeratedanatomical featuresthat mightbe explained
triangle,markedby its protruding
position,is not condi- as due to the self-viewingperspective(Petrkovice,Avdtioned by the pulpa opening. The length of the tusk, jejevo I975). Some have appropriatelyproportioned
especially if the second so-cm-longunworkedone be- lower extremities(Gagarino 3, Avdjejevo I), and the
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in Female Figurines| .259
barellesdoes the same. Many ofthe engravedMagdelenian females depictedon the La Marche limestoneslabs
are obese in the mannerofthe Gravettian"Venus" figurines; the majorityhave upraisedarmsofnormalwidth;
many have been renewed or overengraved.They were
probably,with the La Marche images of males and animals, engravedby othersas elementsofhome-siteritual
ratherthan as self-portraits
(Pales and de St.-Pereuse
I976). The human armsin all ofthesefemaledepictions
are of "normal" width. An incised Gravettianfemale
fromKostenki i, on a fragmentofmarl,also has an arm
of normal width that is extended outward (Abramova
I967b: I4, pl. 9 [i6]).
Peabody Museum ofArchaeologyand Ethnology,
Why, then, are the PKG-style female figurinesdeHarvard University,Cambridge,Mass. 02138, U.S.A.
picted with exaggeratedlythin arms attachedto a "loz3I X 95
enge" body?Was this done because oftherelativeunimThe ethnographicand anthropologicalrecordprovides portanceofthe armsand hands and thegreatersymbolic
cultures importanceofthe breastsand hips?Or because the arms
no evidence that women in hunter-gatherer
oftheirob- were seen, fromabove, autogenously?Apparentlynot.
everproduced"autogenous" representations
In engravingand bas-reliefcarvingit is easy to depict
served anatomical "selves." Female images were often
produced but always as indicative and/or mythic extendedor raisedarms. Small ivoryand stone figurines
to carvein threedimenare,however,relativelydifficult
The earliest Upper Paleolithic female representation sions. Even ifivoryis "softened"bysoakingorsteaming,
is from the Aurignacian of Galgenberg,Austria, ca. as was suggestedby Semenov (i964), it requiresslow,
carvingofa nude laborious whittling. "Free" arms extended from the
30,000 ? B.P. It is a greenserpentine
with one breastjuttingout to the left,the otherfacing body,thin ankles,feetattachedto thinankles, and thin
frontward,the vulva clearly indicated, the left arm necks would have been verylikelyto breakeitherduring
raised,and the righthand restingon the thigh,posed as the carving or in later use or storage.' McDermott's
thoughin a ritualor dance position(Neuebauer-Maresch drawings(fig.i) depict the high proportionof missing
I988). All of the "human" figuresin the Aurignacian feetand heads in the corpus.Direct analysis of the Upor ritualuse rather per Paleolithicfemalefigurinessuggestthatthe concepsuggestaspects ofritualperformance
than "naturalistic" depiction,including a lion-headed tual Gravettian"lozenge" noted by Leroi-Gourhanhad
of carvingthe human
anthropomorphfromHohlenstein-Stadeland a carved as much to do with the difficulty
bas-relief,probablymale, from Geissenklosterlewith body in ivory,"bone," and stone as with any ideology
the feet apart and the arms raised as in dance or ritual concerningthe importanceof the breasts,hips, and naadoration, reminiscent of the Galgenberg female. A vel (Leroi-GourhanI967:I2I I-.22).
An unfinishedfigurinemade of a compact claylike
figurefromVocrude,rapidlycarved anthropomorphic
gelherd,apparentlya schematic female, was ritually chalk fromKostenki i (fig.i) illustratesthe mode and
overmarkedwith rows of gouges in the same way as sequence of carvinganatomical volumes and indentawereanimal carvingsincludinga lion fromthissite. The tions by whittlingand scrapingin different
underlyingritual aspect of this Aurignacianimageryis directions(Abramova I967b:g,I. 5[3]). The bent head,
ofthehumanimagerythat with its "down-turned"face, produced a thick, strong
neck duringcarving.The armswould have restedon the
would follow.
The Gravettian("PKG-style")femalespresentdiffer- breasts; carved as part of the centralmass, theywould
ent but related analytical problems. Most of the en- not have broken off. Strong counterpressureswould
graved or bas-reliefGravettiandepictions of humans have been applied to both the figurineand the tool durhave raisedor extendedarms:Laussel providesthreeim- ingthe scrapingand carving,particularlyin areas ofdeep
ages of females holding animal horns in a raised arm; indentation.The Kostenki figurineapparentlybrokein
the so-called Laussel hunterhas a raised arm, and the the process of carvingthe feet,in the area of thinnest
Laussel "birthing"scene depicts a female with bent mass, at the knees, and where the legs would begin to
arms clasping her raised knees while apparentlygiving bend. The carving was, therefore,apparentlyangrily
birth(my directmicroscopicanalysis).LaterMagdalen- bashed across the chest,broken,and discarded.Brokenian engravingsand bas-reliefsalso depict females with offheads and figurineswith missingheads are common
raised or extendedarms: a Laugerie Basse pregnantfe- in the Gravettian.The productionproblems in these
male lyingprone has raised arms under a phallic male carvingswere, therefore,different
fromthose involved
reindeer;an engravingfromIsturitzon bone shows two
females in tandem with raised arms; an engravingand I. The Galgenbergcarvinghas, probablyforthisreason,massive
two bas-reliefsfromLa Madeleine depict nude females armsthatareas wideas theheadand thethighsbutno wristsand
withraised,bent arms; and an engravingfromLes Com- no ankles.The bodyis not obese but thatofa youngwoman.
figurinefrom Jelisejevitchihas an exaggeratedlower
body,especially the lower extremities.
Evidentlysome artistsstressedsome parts of the female body (breasts,belly,buttocks)and reducedothers
(facial features,arms, legs), but this is farfroma rule.
Great variability is what we observe in Pavlovianand thereasonforthis
is probablymore complex than the distortionsof selfinspection.
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
tion. The "Venus" of Willendorf,one of the type figurines of the Gravettian(see Marshack iggib), is short
and exaggeratedlywide (see McDermott's fig. i, e); it
has an unnaturallythick neck but thin arms and tiny
feet,probablybecause of the impracticalityof carving
Longlimbs or thin distal appendages in the relatively
soft,breakable limestone. The Willendorffigurinealso
carriesa number of attributesor determinativesthat
could not have been seen autogenously.She wears the
common Gravettian female coiffure,which fills the
head and overhangsa nonexistentface (fig.2). This coiffureconsists of long, twined or plaited braids coiled
around the head, recalling the coiled coiffureon a
Gravettianivoryhead fromDolni Vestonice (Marshack
The zigzag abstractionof twining is the
same as thatfoundon theWillendorffigurine'sbracelets
and on bracelets,body bands, and collars as fareast as
the RussianPlain (Abramova1960, Marshack199Ib),
indicatingan aspect of decorativestyle across much of
Europe. Upper Paleolithic females could not, of course,
see the tops of theirheads, yet the coiffurewas a major,
shared markerof maturefemales; it could be observed
on othersif not on the self. Like the lozenge form,the
coiffurewas an aspect of style and custom ratherthan
of autogenous observation.The Willendorffigurineis
also thicklycoveredwith red ocher,a featurefoundon
otherGravettianfemales (cf.Laussel) that suggestsritual use of the image-a suggestionthatrelatesit to the
overmarkedearlierAurignacianimages and to the overmarked "buttocks" images of the Magdalenian (Mar-
FIcG. I. Unfinished,brokenfemale `iurine of claylike
chalk fromKostenki I, indicatingthe mode of
carving.Height I75Scm.
in creatingengravedor bas-reliefhuman images. The
conceptual "lozenge" was apparently,in part at least,
a response to the problem of carvingappendages and
protuberances(heads, arms, and feet).The Gravettian
figurineshave arms on the breasts,underthe breasts,or
at the sides,and some have no arms.The "black Venus"
fromDolnl' V'estonice(McDermott's
fig.I, g), modeled
in soft clay before firing,has no arms; the incised
Gravettian geometric,schematic female on an ivory
tusk from P'redmostlhas arms, however, that hang
freely,away fromthe body.
Among the Gravettianfigurines,the clearlyexaggerated wide hips and buttocks and the thin arms were
largelyinvitedby the lozenge formand the pragmatics
of carving,not necessarilyby autogenous observation.
A "close reading" of the Gravettianfemales indicates
that culturallyrelevantsymbolicattributesor determinativeswere often,also, added to the figurinesafterthe
basic anatomyhad been carved. These were aspects of
an underlyingstyle ratherthan of autogenousobserva-
Even an unfinished
image on an ivorytusk (a
sketch) was rituallyovermarked(see McDermott's fig
4,c; Marshack 991ia:29 i). But,above all, the Willendorf
figurinehas the most carefullyand exquisitelycarved
realisticvulva in the entireEuropeanUpper Paleolithic.
It is placed farunderthe voluminous breastsand stomach, where it could not have been seen by selfinspection.It is carvedwith an accuracythatcould have
been producedonlyby another,thatis, by someone generallyfamiliarwith femaleanatomy(fig.3).
Gravettianfemaleimages varyin the rangeand precision of such applied or associated attributes.It was often,apparently,these attributesthat"marked"and gave
culturalrelevanceto the figurinesand theiruse, probably as much as the breasts,hips, and buttocks.This is
strikinglyapparentin one figurinethat is inadequately
describedand illustratedby McDermott. The figurine
fromMonpazier (McDermott'sfig.9, b; Clottes I97I) is
a naturally shaped conglomerateiron hydroxide(limonite) pebble that possesses an exaggerated"pregnant"
stomach and an exaggeratedprotrudingrear,as well as
a head and feet (fig.4). Natural, seeminglydepictive
formsare common and are even foundon the walls of
the sanctuarycaves, where theywere oftenminimally
modifiedto heighten their effect(see Delporte i982).
Two crude eyes were intentionallyscalloped onto the
Monpazier head, and the breasts were lightlyscraped
to heightentheirrealism.It is the aspect of exaggerated
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FIG. 2.
in Female FigurinesI 26i
Head ofthelimestoneWillendorf
indicatingthespiralofa twinedcoiffure
carvedas a zigzag
pregnancy,however,thatis the object's keyfeature,and
it was this featurethat was addressedby producingone
of the most dramaticmodificationsof an image to be
foundin theUpperPaleolithic.Directlyunderthe "pregnant" belly a huge,wide-open,verydeep oval vulva (fig.
5) was carved with as much care and precision as the
smaller, "normal" vulva on the Willendorffigurine.
This large vulva is apparentlyan image and symbolof
the "portal"throughwhich thefetalinfantcarriedin the
distendedstomach above would emerge.(Duhard I987)
This aspect and view of the vulva could probablyonly
have been seen by a midwifeor anotherfemalewho was
aiding in a delivery.It is thereforepossible that this
vulva and figurinewere "created" and used in a ritual
seekingan easy and safe delivery.2
I have long documentedthe diversityin Upper Paleolithic female imageryand its uses, includingthe diversityin the so-calledVenus figurines(Marshack199 ia,b).
That diversityis not a resultof autogenousobservation
or of "conscious mastery of the material conditions
unique to women's reproductivelives" but perhapsrepresented the opposite-the recognitionof and ritual,
mythologizedparticipationin theuncertaintiesand dangers that surroundedthe processes of life, birth and
death. Such mythsand ritualswere not aspects of "empowermentand mastery,"eitherpolitical or ideological,
or hearth-associated/open-air
sheltercontexts-mighthave had
to do withthedevelopment
to modernH. sapiens" (i983:222).
Data such as thoseI
have presentedherewouldformpartofongoinginquiryintosuch
practices,but "innovativeobstetricpractices"would surelyhave
Suchsymbolicbehavior need not have been an aspectof social "empowerment"
or of
controloverthe materialconditionsofpregnancy
and childbirth.
Symbolicand materialbehaviorsrelatingto femaleprocessesin
the EuropeanGravettianmaynot have been muchdifferent
behaviorsin otherhuman culturesearlier,later,and elsewhere.
2. McDermottcites Conkey(i983), who thereremarksthatthe The EuropeanUpperPaleolithicmerelyprovidesartifactual
from'domestic' dencein stoneandboneforan earlyregionalformofsuchbehavior.
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
FIG. 3. Lower half of the Willendorf
indicatingthe carvedpubis and vulva as well as the
thickknees and the minuscule feet,lacking ankles.
but indicationsofa symbolicattemptat influencingand
participatingin the periodicities,equations, and difficulties of the processes involved. A two-sidedamulet
fromGrimaldi(Marshacki986) has a pregnantimage on
one face and a nonpregnantfemaleimage on the other.
It may have been worn by a woman seekingpregnancy
and a safedeliverymuch as the Monpazierfigurine(and
at least one of the Laussel bas-reliefs)may have been
used. Among the Gravettianfigurinesthereare images
of pregnancyas well as images of nonpregnancyand,
therefore,apparently,potential pregnancy(see Marshack iggia). Since the Grimaldi amulet incorporates
both,it is clearlynot an autogenousdepictionbut rather
one image in the variable tradition.
McDermott's Eurocentricidea that the Gravettian
figurines represent a "beginning" of female selfawareness and "conscious masteryof the reproductive
conditionsofwomen" is derivedfromthe contemporary
effortto locate a "beginning"of human self-awareness
in the EuropeanUpper Paleolithic (White i992, but see
Marshack I994) and the "genderingofarcheology,"with
its effortto shiftarcheological,theoreticalconcerntowards the role of women in earlyhuman cultures.The
of"self" (seeMarshacki992,
FIG. 4. Naturally shaped limoniteformfrom
Monpazier resemblinga pregnantfemale withlarge
buttocks.Height SS mm.
of women in complex symbolicculturesare, of course,
importantissues. They cannot,however,be adequately
investigatedor addressed by descriptionsof the gross
female morphologyand supposed "autogenous" contentsof the Gravettianfigurines.
The notionthatmaturefemalesacross GravettianEurope were looking under their arms at their hips and
buttocksand down to theirnavels forthousandsofyears
in orderto carve images ofthemselvesin hardmaterials
is ratherstartling.Knowledgeand use of the Gravettian
style would have been a much simpler process and
3. ? I996 by Alexander Marshack.
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in Female Figurines1263
basis of a relativelylarge assemblage of clay figurines
fromPavlov i (Kllma I989), I suggestthat two of them
are very probablymasculine. Absolon's earlier collection of ceramicsfromDolni Vestonice I includes a hermaphroditicbeing.Finally,I would call attentionto the
femalefigurinesthatdo not fitthe self-viewing
perspective, such as the hematite figurinefoundby Klima in
at Petrkovice(new excavationsin I994-95
helped to clarifyits contextby unearthingnearbyareas
coveredwith powderedochre).The individualityofthis
slim femaletorsoseems due to its youngerage and possibly an earlier stage of pregnancy-differencesthat
would be readilyrecognizableby an outside observer.
As a terminologicalremarkit may be noted that recent studies separate the Pavlovian and Kostenkianas
sequential chronologicaland culturalunits.
Archaeological Research Facility,Universityof
Calif.94720, U.S.A. ii x 95
5. Close-up of the deep, wide-openoval vulva
carved on the Monpazier figurine.
Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic,Institute
CZ-69I 29 Dolni VWstonice
25, Czech
Republic ([email protected]). I5 X 95
Wheneveran originalidea has been suggestedduringthe
of Paleolithicart,
more than a centuryof interpretation
its authorhas tendedto overlookalternatives.This contradictsthe obvious diversityof approachesin both the
of works of art (Conkey
creationand the interpretation
I987). The present paper is relatively convincing in
showing how the self-regarding
perspectivemay have
contributedto the developmentof the Gravettianfigurinestyle.It elegantlyexplainsthe inabilityto reproduce
heads and the exaggeratedproportionsof the protruding
partsofthe body.It neverthelessseems likelythatother
features,such as massive bodies and shortextremities,
may be due to factorssuch as the technicalqualities of
the material,requiringa consistentshape duringboth
fabricationand use (in contrast to, for example, the
bronze figurinesof the metal ages), the importanceof
individualbodypartsin the eyes of theirsculptors,and
the establishedelementsofthe style.Paleolithicanimal
figurinesequally tend to have shortlegs comparedwith
theirbodies, and we do not expect animals to be selfobservingsculptors.
McDermott's article is certainlyan innovative and
positive contributionthat will considerablychange our
It thereunderstandingof earlyfemale representations.
foreseems quite unnecessaryto argueat the same time
againstthe presenceof male representations
Gravettianor to reduce their number to one. On the
I applaud the principleof McDermott's attemptto sugofthe EuropeanPaleogestan alternativeinterpretation
lithic female representations.It is an audacious detour
fromperspectivesthatconsideredonlythe possibilityof
male producersand male audiences,usingfemalebodies
as a mediumforthe purposeoftrade,education,or communicationofknowledge.Rather,McDermottproposes
exploring"the logical possibilitythatthe firstimages of
the human figurewere made fromtheperspectiveofself
ratherthan other." This innovative approach exposes
previouslyunstated assumptions that the prehistoric
were object-oriented,
of an other.
However, many of the argumentsthat McDermott
raisesin supportofhis claim and the conclusionsthathe
draws are eitherfactuallyor logicallyflawed.Multiple,
fora set
equally plausible interpretations
may be offered
ofdata,but to be convincingtheyrequirestrongevidential supportand logical consistency.Among the wide
range of issues raised by the article (e.g., the status of
in the originsofreprealism,memory,and functionality
resentation),I will address only a few points directly
relatedto the Central/EastEuropeanarchaeologicalevidence invoked and the logical moves made in its interpretation.
The argumentrestson a basic assumptionof stylistic
and cultural unity of the "Pavlovian-KostenkianGravettiantechnocomplex,"an entitycoveringalmost
all of Europe fromFranceto Russia. Such unitymay be
suggested,but McDermott's claim that it is generally
accepted on the basis of the stone tool technologyis
highlycontentiousto say the least. Furthermore,
I doubt
that many scholars would agree that the Gravettian
"originated"in Central Europe with the Pavlovian and
spread from there to France and to Russia (one is
temptedto ask why then "Pavlovian" has remaineda
relativelyobscuretermforthoseworkingat thewestern
end of the continuum).A numberof hypothesesabout
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Volume 37, Number 2, April 1996
the relationshipbetweenthe earlierAurignacianand its
time-specificlocal variants (such as the Szeletian in
CentralEurope)and the Gravettianhave been discussed,
yet the debate remains open and the "origin" of any
technocomplexsketchyat best. While stylisticconventions have been accepted, close scrutinyof individual
lithic collections reveals a much more complex picture
(see, e.g.,Leonova I994 foran argumentagainsthomogeneity).
One may always argueforsome "generalsimilarities"
that span over io,ooo years in a discussion of larger
evolutionarytrends. However, to argue for the same
"homogeneity"in an interpretationof social phenomena, as McDermott does, is logically unwarrantedand
in this case evidentiallyunsupported.Women taking
controloftheirreproductivefunctionsmay have constituted a possible line of social action, but the status of
that action as an "adaptive response" (adaptive for
whom?) that could fitan evolutionaryscenario,taking
place forover io,ooo years-the estimatedtime span for
the dated figurines-requiresmore in the way of sustained argumentto be plausible. Needless to say, McDermottdoes not even hint at the connectionbetween
representationand "femininecontrolover the material
conditionsof reproductivelives" but rathertakes it for
granted,leaving this readerunconvinced.
McDermott suggeststhat the earliesthuman images
are the "Venuses," a name thathe rightlyrejects.However,the archaeologicalevidencefromAurignaciansites
in Central Europe (Hohlenstein-Stadel,Germany,and
Stratzing,Austria),as well as the Frenchsite Brassempouy, clearlyshows that relativelysophisticatedrepresentationsofhumans were made at an earliertime,suggestingthat claims of "originsof art" are slightlyout of
place forthe more recentGravettianperiod.Moreover,
the possibilityof an older traditionofartisticimages on
perishable materials (e.g., wood, leather, drawing in
sand, or body painting)should not be discounted.The
animal figurinesfromthe Aurignacianlayers (dated to
B.P.) at Vogelherdand Geissenklosterle
(Germany) not only undermine the notion that the
Gravettianfemale figurinescould have been an origin
ofanythingbut also refuteMcDermott'ssuggestionthat
"if PKG-styleimages of the human figurewere created
and disseminatedby women, it is possible that PKGstyleand Aurignaciansculpturesof animals,which employ similar materialsand techniques,were createdby
women." Even ifwe accept the possibilitythatsome of
the figurinesmay have been created by women, the
claim that thereforethe women were also responsible
forall animal figurinesat the same time period,as well
as duringthe previous times, is purelya leap of faith,
one that not all of us may feel compelled to take.
McDermott rightlynotes that,forexample, at Dolni
Vestonice (as well as Pavlov) the majorityof the figurineswere animals,with onlya fractionofhuman representations.This fact is then leftbehindforthe sake of
of the human images and the general
the interpretation
Ifwomen were indeed
hypothesisof self-representation.
creating the figurinesas a means of communicating
knowledge about "hygiene and reproduction,"why is
the majorityof the collection composed of representation of animals? Was there any identificationbetween
women and animals as the self,or were the animals the
"other"?And what does that tell us about the relationships between men and women at the time? I am left
puzzled, and with a slightlystrainedneck,despitemany
yearsof yoga practice.
New York University,
New York,N.Y. 10003-6607, U.S.A. 6 x 95
Few areas of archaeologicalinterpretation
are as badly
in need offreshair as thatsurrounding
female imagery.McDermott attemptsto move beyond
the usual hackneyedinterpretations
thatplague the secondaryliteratureon the subject, and, unlike many recent writerson the subject,he has actually examineda
numberof originalspecimens. Nevertheless,the thesis
ofhis articleis quite problematicalfrombothan empirical and a theoreticalperspective.
FIG. I. The so-called playing card fromLaussel,
France,probably a kneelingfemale figurewithlightly
engravedaqueous reflection(photoA. Roussot).
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in Female Figurines1265
FiG. 2 . The "brownivoryfigurine"(left)and the "flattenedfigurine"(right)fromGrimaldi. Both exhibithigh
luster and means of suspension (furrowand perforationrespectively)(photosR. White).
A problemat the outset is that McDermottseems to
underestimatethe intellectual and observationalabilities of Upper Paleolithic humans. The propositionof
self-viewingrepresentationis foundedin largemeasure
on the presumedabsence oftechnologicalmeans ofselfviewing(i.e., mirrors).However,a tellingartifactin this
regardis the engravedlimestone slab fromLaussel, the
most credible interpretationof which is that it represents a kneelingwoman and her aqueous reflection(fig.
I). If this interpretation
is accepted,it indicatesthe recognition and depiction of reflectedhuman images by
earlyUpper Paleolithic people. People were almost certainlyable to combine theirown distortedreflectionsin
still water with theirdaily observationsof otherpeople
to producean accurate representationof themselves.
McDermottis not happywith the idea thatthe reduction of limbs relative to breasts and abdomens was a
conventionbased in differential
emphasison anatomical
features.However,if in factthese "distortions"emerge
theyshould be evidentonlyin human imagery.But a quick glance at the 32,ooo-year-old
Vogelherd animal figurines(foreshortenedlimbs, absence of tails) or the 3i,ooo-year-oldpainted rhinoceroses fromGrotteChauvet (pointedlimbs) reveals simi-
lar conventionalized "distortions." Unless we accept
that the horses and rhinocerosescontemporarywith
much of the female statuarywere sculptingor painting
images ofthemselves,we cannotattribute"distortions"
to self-viewingrepresentation.The giving of greater
symbolic and representationalpriorityto certain anatomical featuresseems to me a more viable inference.
In my view McDermottmakes an errorin presuming
the dominance of the visual domain in earlyUpper Paleolithic female imagery.My own researchin the past
two years (White I996a, b, c) has focusedveryheavily
on the totallyignoredtactile qualities of these objects,
the technologicalmeans (polishes,glazes) by whichparticularsurfacetextureswere achieved,and the textures
found in nature that they were intendedto represent.
Indeed,such texturesmay have been perceivedin terms
of supernaturalpower, a possibilitysupportedby carefullyburied figurinesand fragmentsat sites like Avdeevo.
Large numbers of figurinesshow perforationsor
carvedfurrowsto permitsuspension (fig.2). If this implies thattheywere wornas pendantsor amulets (other
contextsof suspension are certainlyimaginable),their
tactile qualities become highlyimportant.They would
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
FIG. 3. The lustrous,possibly glazed surfaceof the
pregnantabdomen of "the woman with two heads," a
minuscule (2.7 cm long) serpentinefigurinefrom
Grimaldi,Italy (photo R. White).
have been constantlyavailable to be experiencedby the
fingers.In this context,emphasison anatomicalfeatures
germaneto pregnancyand minimizationofnonrelevant
featuresmake greatsense. The factthatmore than 90%
of the known figurinesare manufacturedof soapstone,
marl,or ivory,all softand soapy to the touch,buttresses
this tactile emphasis (fig.3).
To the extentthat theywere intendedto be viewed,
early Upper Paleolithic female images show some features that directly contradict McDermott's "autogenous" hypothesis.For example,the furrowthatfollows
the vertebralcolumn in humans is almost always indicated by the sculptor,althoughentirelyinvisibleto selfinspection.However,the figurinesdiffer
greatlyin their
visibility,largelyas a resultof variationin size. In McDermott's figuresi and 2, all specimens have been rescaled to appear to be the same size. In reality,early
Upper Paleolithicfigurinesrangefrom2 cm to 30 cm in
McDermott repeats many of the stereotypicdescriptions of female figurines.For example, he emphasizes
bowed heads, while thisfeatureexistsin fewerthanone
in fivespecimens. The verydescription"bowed heads"
would seem to implythatthe figurinesare to be read as
standingfigures.That this may not be the case is illustratedby the Kostienki i figurinepresentedin figure4.
Viewed in a lyingposition,this figurinemay reasonably
be interpretedas a woman strainingto give birth.Indeed,ifmanyofthe figurineswereintendedto represent
lyingfigures,this would account forfrequentflattening
or upliftingof the buttocks and pronouncedsteatotrochanterialtissue.
I am certainlynot against the notion that obstetric
practicesare involvedin the contextof figurineproduc-
4. Statuettenumber 3, in ivory,fromKostienkii, Russia, shown here lyingon its back (photo R. White).
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in Female Figurines 267
tionand use. Indeed,Bisson and I have recentlyproposed incorporatesize errorsremarkablysimilar to those obthat many figurinesmay have served not to enhance servedin PKG-styleimages.'
fertilitybut to protect women duringpregnancyand
Althoughone most oftenencountersbody-imagedischildbirth(Bissonand White i996). However,we need to tortionsin relationto eatingdisorderssuch as anorexia
be carefulnot to replace masculist ideologyin figurine nervosa (Slade and Russell I973), healthy individuals
interpretationwith functionalist,obstetricinterpreta- also estimatebodysize differently
and significantly
tions saturatedwith the vocabularyand values of late- accurately than nonbody objects (Tiemersma I989).
2oth-centuryAmerican feminism(e.g., "self-conscious Even moreimportant,these errorsrevealconsistentpatfemininecontrol over the material conditionsof their terns of over- and underestimationlinked to the georeproductivelives"; see also White i986b).
graphicallocation of body parts. Head width,forearm
In the end, there are three of McDermott's points length,and waist width are most oftenoverestimated,
about which I should like to express agreement.First, whereas hand and foot lengthsare typicallyunderestithe demonstrationin some instances that women pro- mated (Fisher I986, Shontz i969). The distances from
jected knowledge(thatonly theycould have possessed) the navel to the feetand fromthe crotchto thefeetalso
oftheirown bodies onto sculptedrepresentations
indeed tend to be underestimated(Nash i969). The fact that
buttressesthe notion of figurineproductionby women, multiple studies reveal a generaltrendto overestimate
even ifone does not buy the whole autogenousobstetric the size of the upper body and to underestimatethose
package. Second, McDermottis rightin underliningthe oflower bodyareas (Fisheri986:I79) seems particularly
quasi-absenceofmale figurinesin the earlyUpperPaleo- relevantto understandingthe originofthe lozenge comlithic sample (see also White i996a). Finally and re- position.
It is interestingthat errorsin body-size estimates
followingDuhard,he distinguishesthe early
Upper Paleolithic figurinesample fromthat of the late are largelyunaffectedby bodypostures(e.g.,sittingverUpper Paleolithic,which exhibitsmuch higherpropor- sus standing) and are not appreciably influenced by
whethersubjects can or cannot see theirbodies. Indeed,
tions of pregnantand male representations.
Finally,a minor point: The bas-reliefallegedlyfrom theuse ofa mirrorbysubjectsreducedbut did not elimiLa Mouthe should probablybe expungedfromthe sam- nate the typical body-orientedsize judgmentpattern
ple, as it is almost certainlya moderndeception(White (Shontz i969). In fact,body-sizejudgmentsare not appreciablyinfluencedby a host ofuncertaintiesabout the
comparabilityof measures (FisherI 9 8 6: I 6 5).
There are numerousparallels between modernbodyschema studies and PKG-styleimages. Women tend to
overestimatethe width of the waist more than men
(Fisher i986:i69), and pregnantwomen overestimate
Mo., U.S.A.
27 XI
My decision to presentthe autogenoushypothesiswithout a discussion of the interdisciplinary
which it emerged appears to have encouraged some
overlyrigid assumptions about how self-generated
visual informationfunctionedin the fabricationof PKGon theformand content
styleimages.I have concentrated
ofretinalinformationforthe sake ofclarityand because
such observationscan be experimentally
position is that the anatomical omissions and proportional distortionsof PKG-styleimages originatedwith
visual informationderivedprimarilyfromthe physical
pointofview of selfbut thatothersensorydomainsand
cognitiveprocesses also undoubtedlyplayed a role (see
n. 5). Pavlovian, Kostenkian, and Gravettianwomen
would not have been requiredto stand naked forhours
attemptingto capturethe foreshortened
masses oftheir
bodyin intractablematerials,because theyalso presumablyhad an internalizedbodyimage or schema ofthemselves to consult. As Davis's comment about clothing
indicates,thereis everyreasonto believe thattheability
to forma mentalpictureofthe bodyhad evolvedby this
time. This presumptionis especiallyrelevantsince our
modern internalizedimage of physical self appears to
Hester'sobservation(I 970) thattheupperarmis usually
underestimatedis of interestpreciselybecause it runs
counterto the generaltrend.It indicates that the modern body schema can be highlyspecificin the way in
which it incorporatesdifferent
body parts.Bisson, Duhard, Jelinek,and Hahn echo in one formor another
Delporte's pointed question: "Why,then,are the arms,
being so close to the head, absent or atrophied?"Presumably,the arms and hands, being close to the eyes
like the breasts,should be similarlylarge or of normal
size. Our body schema, however,may employdifferent
strategiesto encode different
bodyparts.For example,it
has been observed that a subject's errorsin body-size
judgmentshave considerablestabilityover time (Fisher
The one exceptioninvolvedjudgmentsof hand
length.Althougherrorsof estimationof hand length
i. The 2oth century'sinterestin how humanbeingsencodetheir
individualphysicalexistenceemergedin responseto medicalobservationsaboutthephantom-limb
unusualsize distortions
by schizophrenics
and those
on drugs(macro-and microsomatognosia),
and the neurological
deficitsofthosewho suffer
braindamagefromdiseaseor trauma.
philosophyand the autogenoushypothesissharea pointofdeparturein pioneering
bodyimage and bodyschema (Head and Holmes i9ii, Schilder
I935, Tiemersmai989).
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
are reliable fromtrial to trialwithina given testing
session, theyare not reliablewith a 2-weekretestinterval.This is an intriguingfindingbecause the hand
is so much in use, and one mightexpectit to be perceived with unusual accuracyand stability.Shontz
(i969) speculated that it is preciselybecause the
hand is so much in use and thereforeconstantly
changingin shape and apparentsize experientially
that one would evolve a concept of it withinwide
ratherthan narrow"cognitiveboundaries."
inspection.Until we encounterpolished obsidian discs
duringthe Neolithic of whose functionwe can be reasonablycertain,we have no evidence thatthe abilityto
see lightreflectedfroma two-dimensionalsurfaceas a
coherent image had been mastered. That we are surroundedbymyriadhighlyreflectivesurfacesmade possible by centuriesof accumulated technologicalexpertise
does not mean that Upper Paleolithic artisansused reflectedimages. Withoutthe technologyto supportthe
practicetherewould have been farless experiencewith
reflectedimages than today,and an appreciationoftheir
We must recognizethat the arms and hands do not pro- potentialin a few properlyilluminatednaturalpools of
duce any one singlecharacteristicretinalimage.In some stillwatercould have been virtuallynonexistent.2
Ifwapositions the eye receives a much "thinner,"foreshort- termirrorswere used, why are therevirtuallyno repreened image ofthe armthanmanyrealize.A simpleopti- sentationsoffaces?Nor can we givemuch weightto the
cal principletells us that this must be so, and modern identificationofan engravingfromLaussel as a kneeling
body-schemaresearchsuggeststhatmiddleUpperPaleo- woman and her aqueous reflection;this inherentlyamlithic artists may have chosen this experienceas the biguous one-of-a-kind
image has with equal conviction
basis fortheirrepresentation.
Of course,ifself-generated been identifiedas a scene of sexual intercourse(Luquet
visual informationdoes play a role in determiningthe I930:85), a woman givingbirth(Marshack),and a
characteristicsof PKG-styleimages, representationof mythicJanus-likefigure(Coppens i989).
The autogenous hypothesisconfrontsus with basic
the hands and arms is doubly conflictedby theirbeing
issues about how cultureinteractswith perception.As
both model and instrumentof fabrication.
Instructorsin beginningart classes routinelyobserve forDobres's concernabout my neglectof the "cultural
thatstudentsdrawingthe human bodyhave the greatest lens throughwhich all seeing is accomplished,"I can
in masteringthe correctdetailand proportions onlypointout thatthiswas not my subject.The answer
of hands and feet. One typical "sophomoric" solution to my basic experimentalquestion-whether thephysito the difficulty
of renderingthese appendagesinvolves cal point of view representedin PKG-stylefemalefigusimply eliminatingthem fromthe composition.When rinesis that of selfor other-is not dependentupon the
feetare attempted,the most common erroris to render operationofany culturalfactorsotherthanthosewhich
them too small. Readers may be surprisedto discover limit what we can learn to see. A similarresponsecan
thattheirfeetare equal in lengthto theirforearmsfrom be made to Duhard; our image ofselfmay be interpreted
elbow to wrist.The most commonproblemin beginning by the occipital centersof the brain,where retinaldisdrawing is "to shrink the extremitiesof the figure" tortionsare filteredout by the objectivestandardsofour
(George Sample, personal communication,November culture,but the physicalpropertiesof the retinalimage
28, i995).
Apprehendingthe objective dimensions of are not alteredby the experience.What is lackingis any
one's own body is not an intuitivelyobvious process; evidence that the middle Upper Paleolithic had also
learnedsuch skills. As forthe contentofthe retinalimmuch of what we see is what we have learnedto see.
Many expressa more generalpuzzlement about why age, the Mach drawingpresentedbyElkinsis interesting
PKG-style artists would choose to create uncorrected forthe size of the arms and feet.As forartists'creating
representationsof the body when they obviously had self-viewsthat do not involve any diminutionof the
readyaccess to its trueappearance.The illogic or lack of limbs,I would point out that JoanSemmel paints from
fitthese commentatorsperceive seems due less to any photographsratherthan fromdirect self-inspection.It
weakness of the evidence or argumentI presentthan to would appear fromdrawingssuch as Mach's that the
the assumptionthata technologicallyunmediatedview modern camera lens actually eliminates some of the
of one's own body is a "distortion."To thinkin these diminutionnaturallypresentin the retinalimage. The
termspresupposesa culturalstandardbased on the ob- explanationlies in thehistoryofWesternimagemaking.
jective appearanceof otherhuman beingsthe existence The camera lens evolved not so much to capturevisual
ofwhich duringthe middle Upper Paleolithiccannotbe reality as to replicate how we representedreality in
proven.We cannot use the argumentthat we are today paintings.
As I have stated, reliance on visual self-inspection
more familiarwith the point of view of the other in
images or that we are more comfortableusing mirrors does not mean thatotherculturalfactorsdid notparticiforour self-inspectiontasks to discountthe evidenceof pate in the developmentand spread of PKG-styleimartifactsindicating that they were created from the ages. Once discoveredor transcribed,
pointofview ofself.The attributesofthefigurinesmust example, would become, in Davis's words,"a pictorial
be givenpriorityoverlogic-which, as I have attempted
to indicate above, is not always self-evident.
2. Nor can I accept the argumentthat animals todayshow the
Bisson,Duhard,Elkins,and Whitearguesthatthe use abilityto recognizereflectedimagesin laboratoryand domestic
of wateras a mirroris inconsistentwith the emergence situations.Animalsdo notmakemirrors,
and neither,
as faras we
of a traditionof representationbased upon visual self- know,did men and womenduringtheUpperPaleolithic.
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in Female Figurines1269
conventionavailable forreproduction,
revision,and ma- ances. Thinningor taperingupper and lower body elenipulation" without necessary involvement of either ments may actuallyhave contributedto breakage.
retinalimage or internalizedbody schema. The autogeSeveral argue that thereis too much variabilityto be
nous hypothesisis a radicallynew idea which challenges encompassed by any theory.Few take issue with my
many basic assumptions,but it does not modifywhat critique of prior claims of stylisticheterogeneity,but
we have alreadylearnedabout the culturallifeofvisual some mention pieces they think are inconsistentwith
what viewpointartiststook to their eitherthe centraltendencyof PKG-styleimages or the
visual information.I omit the
primarysubject in no way eliminatesthe probablecon- contentof self-generated
tributionof more traditionalvehicles of stylisticpropa- Mal'ta and Buret' Siberian specimens from considergation. Indeed, representationalconventionsoriginally ation because they are on another continent and, as
developedto createhuman figuresare the logical source Delporte reiterates,belongto a different
wheneversimilar stylisticelements are encounteredin Distance in styleand time explainsmy "failure"to discuss threeCentralEuropeanfiguresdated to the earlier
animal images.
The presence of attributesinvisible to the self does Aurignacian.I did considerthe "maleness" ofthe poorly
not necessarily run counter to a tradition of self- preservedpiece from Hohlenstein-Stadel,and Hahn's
representation.White rightlycalls attentionto the im- commentshighlightits problematicnature.This piece
conditionwhen foundthat
portantrole played by tactile qualities, particularlyin was in such a fragmentary
the choice ofmaterialsand in the technicalrefinements decades passed beforeit was identifiedas a human figofsurfacefinish.Indeed,we should expecttactileas well ure, and its restorationrendersany extrapolationfrom
and kinestheticknowledgeto be repre- its attributestenuous at best. The identificationof the
as proprioceptive
The Monpazier "Dancing Venus ofGalgenberg"and the "orant"ofGeissented if these pieces are self-portraits.
piece (Marshack's fig. 4) is particularlysuggestivein senklosterleas images of humans is reasonable but by
this. The weight of a pregnantabdomen changes a no means certain,particularlygiventheirpoorpreservawoman's centerofgravityand contributesto lowerback tion. Were these two pieces not archaeologicallydated
pain among expectantmothers.In this piece I thinkthe to the Aurignacian,therewould be little formalreason
but- to perceivethemas related.Marshackdoes make a conexaggeratedsway of the lower back and protruding
tocks,formedas theyare by theevocativeshape "found" vincingcase fora generalsimilarityin the raised or exin a naturalpebble, could easily representthe physical tendedposition of the arms,which could relate to later
discomfortof the woman who selected it. The expres- reliefs,but the resemblanceis accomplishedby different
sionistic manifestation of proprioceptiveand kines- means. In any case, recognizingtwo or threehighlyvarithetic informationmay also be seen in its large oval able images of the human figurefromthe Aurignacian
vulva (Marshack's fig. 5). Duhard (I987) has demon- presentsno particulardifficulty
to the notion of subsestratedthat the physiologicalchangesofthe birthcanal quent emergenceofan integratedtraditionofrepresentaduringdeliveryare accuratelyrenderedby this feature, tion in the later Pavlovian,Kostenkian,and Gravettian
and I see no reason thatit could not representthe "feel- cultures.Perhaps effortsto representthe human figure
ings" of the woman who experiencedthis process.The in theAurignacianweresupersededby a moresuccessful
Monpazier piece also reveals new relationshipsamong design solution. There is no requirementthat one dePKG-styleimages. Viewed fromabove, it is virtuallyin- scend fromthe other.Yet it should be noted that the
distinguishablefrom"the punchinello" fromGrimaldi sense of animated movement encounteredin the Gal(my fig. 9, b) similarlyviewed, even though the two genbergand Geissenklosterlefiguresdiffersfrom the
fromthe point of view of static quality of PKG-styleposes. Could this be a manipieces are radicallydifferent
the other.
festationofthe "rigid"concentrationsome thinkwould
While I agree with Marshack and Svoboda that the be requiredbythe fixedpointsofview inherentin visual
pragmaticsof techniqueand materialexertan influence self-inspection?
on the design of sculpture,thereis no necessarystrucIn any genuine stylisticclustertherewill always be
tural reason forPKG artiststo have made the specific some artifactsmore or less peripheralto the centraltenchoices they did. In the case of arms, if the technical dency. Some of the factorspertinentto understanding
imperativeis to avoid breakableprojections,what is the such variation in terms of the autogenous hypothesis
advantage of thin attached arms over thick ones-or have alreadybeen introduced,and to thesewe must add
even normal-sizedones? The same responsecan be made those associated with the internaldevelopmentof the
to Marshack's suggestionthat the lozenge composition PKG style.Because of the multipleviewpointsrequired
may reflectthe requirementsof carving.Renderingthe for visual self-inspection,representationaladvances
upper and lower body as thickerand blunterthan nor- should tendto be localized withinthe boundariesofone
mal is also a plausible strategyforeliminatingbreakage or more of these views. One logical conjectureis that
and such a design solution is perhapspreservedin the the earliestautogenousimages involvedregionsclose to
thickened lower extremitiesof the singular figurine the eyes. Certainlymany of the pieces fromthe early
fromEliseevitchi.Marshack calls attentionto the high site of Dolni Vestonice have the stiff,angular,or "arproportionofmissingfeetand heads in the corpus,indi- chaic" quality associated with formativeperiodsin stycatingthat the lozenge compositionwas no solution to listic traditions.Even the use of clay as a medium is
the problemof carvingappendagesand otherprotuber- germaneto such a possibility.Because of the speed of
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Volume37, Number2, AprilI996
Venusno. 14 (a), (b)
one ofthebilobedpendantbeads collectively
as Venusno. 12 fromDolni Vestonice(Pavlovian), I
red deercanines
and (c) two "mammiform"
suspendedin hypothesized
FI G. I12.
its earlyuse
execution and ease of correctionit affords,
at Pavlovian sites suggestsan exploratorymilieu from
which an early formof the PKG style emerged.What
Cook sees in Dolni Vestonice no. i as the result of
face-on observationinconsistentwith the autogenous
principle (see my fig. i, g) I see as early attentionto
representingthe upperfrontalsurfaceof the body-the
firstregionencounteredwhen the head is lowered.Only
in the breastsand abdomen of this piece do we encounter any observationalaccuracy; the lower body has the
conceptualaspect of a flattenedgeometriccone, and no
attemptwas made to renderthe buttocks.
Additionalevidence thatawarenessof the upperfrontal surfaceof the femalebodyled in the developmentof
the autogenousimage is to be foundin some ofthe most
enigmatic female representationsfrom Dolni Vestonice-the so-calledVenusesnos. I aand I 4, whichCook
also sees as inconsistentwith my theory.If Dolni Ves-
tonice no. I4 (fig. I2, a), usually describedas a highly
stylizedfemalefigurineconsistingof pendulous breasts
attachedto an abstractrod representing
the body,is observedfromabove, the foreshortened
can be centeredbetweenthe breaststo be read as a pregnant abdomen (fig.I 3). Furthermore,
with slightvariations in the angle of regardone can make the abdomen
rise between the breastsas if-theentirecourse of pregnancy were being represented.This latter possibility
adds an intriguingtemporaldimensionto the numerous
marks and lines engravedon this piece (see Marshack
i99ia:fig. i62). In any case, when viewed in this way,
Dolni Vestoniceno. I4 presentsan organic,realisticrenderingof the upper frontalbody identical with those
foundin more completeand laterPKG-styleimages.Incidentally,I concurwith Cook thatsome pieces incorporate both male and female sexual references.Seen from
the point of view of the other,the breasts and upper
conical appendage of Dolni Vestonice no. I4 read convincingly as a male member complete with scrotal
asymmetry.Do the multiple viewpoints of this piece
thus reveal an association of self-viewwith woman and
other-viewwith man?
Since the componentsof Dolni Vestonice no. i2 (fig.
b), a set ofbilobed pendantbeads, bear such a strong
resemblanceto the breastsand upperconical appendage
of Dolni Vestonice no. I4 and are verysimilarto these
elements of the figurinefromSavignano (see Delporte
I993a:fig. 97), there is every reason to conclude that
they are themselves representationsof breasts. When
the distinctive"mammiform"vestigial canines of the
red deer, perforatedfor suspension, are symmetrically
strungin pairs,theyare almost identicalwith the Dolni
Vestonice no. I2 beads (fig. I2, c). That the originof
PKG-style breasts is to be found among Aurignacian
body ornamentsis supportedby two lines of evidence.
First,red deer canines and the breastsof PKG-styleimages are very similar in shape, and both lack nipples.
The reason is self-evidentforthe formerbut farless so
for the latter. Second, Bisson and White observe that
some figurinesare perforated
forsuspensionas bodyornaments,and while theirpresumedlocation on the upper frontalsurfaceof the body (eithersewn to clothing
or suspended fromthe neck) would have made them
available forfondling,it would also have mimickedthe
view of one's own body. Similarly,wearinga bilobed or
double breast pendantbead reproducesthe perspective
fromwhich a woman views her own breasts.
Finally,not all variationsencounteredin middle Upper Paleolithic images of the human figureneed to be
related directlyto the central tendencyof the autogenous principle. Other human beings were certainly
available to be observed,althoughthe often-mentioned
fragmentfromPetrkovicein Moravia is the only unequivocal example that can be cited. It is not until the
Magdalenian that representationof the other becomes
at all common.
Althoughmany commentatorsraise questions about
the autogenous hypothesis,few challenge the evidence
I presentthatthese images forma coherentstyle.I con-
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in Female Figurines1 27I
The "upper body" of Dolni Vestoniceno. 14 as seen fromabove (froma replica by the author);
compare with the same view of Willendorfno. I (fig.5,b).
FIG. I 3.
tinue to thinkit highlysignificantthat the firstrepresentations of the human body to spread the lengthof
UpperPaleolithicEuropeinvolve a distinctiveset ofanatomical omissions and distortions.Most choose to see
these as a logical but essentiallyarbitraryconsequence
of symbolic or psychologicallymediated activity(DuhardI995). Yet such interpretations
typicallyfailto considerall such departuresor to explain why this particular set of vertical and horizontal distortionsand not
others. For example, why should most figurineshave
elevated posteriors? Proprioceptive and kinesthetic
pathwayscould easily be involved,forthereis an inevitable tendencyto elevate the buttockstowardthe eyes
wheneverone attemptstheirvisual inspection.Furthermore, the glutei medii are typicallyfarlargerthan the
buttocksproperand are oftenmistakenforthem,producing the upside-down configurationencounteredat
Lespugueand certainothersites (Luquet I934). Here the
furrowof the lower spine between the enlargedglutei
medii is mistakenforthe glutealcleavage separatingthe
buttocks.This is perhaps what White has referenceto
when he speaks about the vertebralcolumn's beingrepresented.While White's presentationof Kostenkino. i
in a supine position could account forsome flattening
or lateraldisplacementoftissue (White'sfig.4), it could
not elevate the inferiorterminalmarginof that region
to the level of the navel. Nor is it likely that a supine
birthingposition is indicated,since this became widespreadonly with the adventof modernEuropeanmedical practices.During the Upper Paleolithic a standing,
kneeling,or squattingposition would have been more
likely (WitkowskiI889).
wherethe artiststoodwhen creatinga representationalwork does not tell us what it meant to
its creatoror how it was used or seen by others.The
autogenous point of view becomes but one more variable to consider.Even ifPKG-styleimages embodyrealistic informationof practicalbenefitto women's lives,
this does not precludetheirfunctioningin any number
of symbolic,mythic,or ritualisticcontexts.Marshack's
and Cook's observationsabout the importanceof body
ornaments,which had to have been carvedafterthe basic anatomy,seem verymuch in keepingwith such possibilities.3The criticalrole of associated contextualand
empiricalattributesin futurestudiesis certainlynot diminishedeither;I was unawarethatI had suggestedotherwise.The autogenoushypothesisdoes affectour interpretationof the attributesof the figurines.Insofaras
the observedanatomical omissions and distortionsare
consistentwith self-inspectionand the internalizedoperationofhuman memoryor bodyschema,theycannot
be said by themselvesto be proofof symbolicintent.
Z. A. I960. Elementsofdressand adornment
carvedhumanfiguresfromtheUpperPaleolithicin Europe
and Siberia.Materialyi Issedovaniepo Arkheologii
3. The Lespuguepiece preservesat least one exampleofa waistbandoccludedbythebody.
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Volume 37, Number 2, April I996
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